The 2017 version of Mercer’s “Quality of Living” rankings continues the practice of granting unfair scores for key cities in the Gulf. The best result for any city across the Middle East and Africa is 74 for Dubai among 231 cities assigned scores in the study. The survey covered more than 450 cities, ranked on the basis of 39 factors grouped in 10 categories, in turn deemed vital for expatriates.
The categories are the political and social environment such as political stability, crime and law enforcement; economic environment framed by regulations on currency exchange and banking services; the socio-cultural environment involving media sources as well as limitations on personal freedom; and medical and health considerations.
Other variables relate to education like availability of international schools; public services and transportation; access to recreation; easy availability of consumer goods and housing.
Results for major GCC cities are mixed, led by Dubai which showed an improvement by a notch. Abu Dhabi climbed three spots to 79th, thereby confirming the supremacy of UAE cities in the region. And they had rankings ahead of Warsaw, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Athens, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Johannesburg and Shanghai, to name a few.
Those for other GCC cities are as follows: Muscat at 106, up by a single notch; Doha at 108, progress by two positions and Kuwait at 126, down by two.
Manama ranks 134 in the study, down by one, after Istanbul but before Manila. Moreover, Riyadh ranks 166, lower by two positions and Jeddah at 169, down by four for the worst performance within the GCC.
Undoubtedly, GCC cities deserve better rankings. Suffice to say that Gulf cities are popular with migrant workers, making up a majority of the workforce in every GCC state. Also, expatriates are the majority of the population in all GCC countries except Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Turning to other vital matters, Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi serve as major aviation hubs, thanks to Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad. Millions transit these cities en route to other destinations. The world’s longest commercial flight runs between Auckland and Doha.
Recently, Dubai Airports installed what is termed as the world’s fastest free Wi-Fi. The WOW-Fi service provides internet connections up to 100 Mbps.
On a positive note, four GCC cities are classified in the top 100 in terms of infrastructure. These are Dubai, Abu Dubai, Muscat and Doha at 51st, 67, 96, and 97.
Transport is a net contributor to the quality of living in Dubai thanks to the metro. Looking forward, Expo 2020 in Dubai and World Cup 2022 in Qatar should further help in asserting their places in future rankings.
The writer is a Member of Parliament in Bahrain.