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Quality of Life: Mercosur Best, CAFTA Worst

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Lima, San Pedro Sula and Monterrey see the best improvement, while Sao Paulo, Santa Cruz and La Paz deteriorate most.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

Uruguayan capital Montevideo is again ranked best in Latin America when it comes to overall quality of life. Argentine capital Buenos Aires followed, while Chilean capital Santiago ended in third place, according to the 2007 worldwide quality of living survey from U.S.-based Mercer Human Resources Consulting.

Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince ends up last, followed by Havana in Cuba.

In terms of trade pacts, the best and worst cities are:

  • Andean Community: Quito in Ecuador best, Santa Cruz in Bolivia worst.
  • CAFTA: San Jose in Costa Rica best, San Pedro Sula in Honduras worst.
  • Mercosur: Montevideo in Uruguay best, Caracas in Venezuela worst.

Measured by average scores, Mercosur is the best trade group for quality of life. It gets an average score of 77.7, according to a Latin Business Chronicle analysis of Mercer data. The Andean Community follows, with an average score of 67.6, while CAFTA ends up last, with 62.8.

However, there are big differences within each trade group. In Mercosur, Montevideo at 88.2 is considerably better than Caracas at 64.1. And Quito in the Andean Community has a score - 74.2 - which is also much higher than that of Santa Cruz at 62.1. Within CAFTA, San Jose's score of 77.8 is 50 percent higher than that of San Pedro Sula (51.8).

FACTORS BEHIND SCORES

The ranking of 215 cities worldwide, including 26 in Latin America, looks at 39 key factors in 10 different categories:

  • Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc.)
  • Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services, etc.)
  • Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom, etc.)
  • Health and sanitation (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.)
  • Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools, etc.)
  • Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion, etc.)
  • Recreation (restaurants, theaters, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc.)
  • Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.)
  • Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services, etc.
  • Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).

The survey, along with cost of living, helps multinational companies and governments decide what salary levels are appropriate for executives being posted in Latin America and elsewhere.

LATIN AMERICA LAGS

Qualify of life improved in six cities in Latin America, but deteriorated in another six.  The remaining saw their score unchanged.

Lima saw the best improvement, changing its score from 73.0 to 73.6. Other cities with the best improvements are San Pedro Sula (+0.5), Monterrey (+04) and San Salvador (+04).

Among the worst deteriorations in scores are Sao Paulo (-2.5) and La Paz and Santa Cruz (-1.2 each).  Also Mexico City, Caracas and Havana worsened their score.

Compared to other regions of the world, the cities in Latin America fared worse than most cities in Europe and the United States. Zurich in Switzerland ranked first on the survey, which used an index with New York as the base city with a score of 100. Miami, which is considered the business hub for Latin America, got a score of 96.3, which placed it in 62nd place on the ranking.

"In general, the cities in Latin America are ranked under the average," points out Alberto Mondelli, Mercer's director of human capital in Latin America.

Montevideo's quality of life is better than cities like Athens, but behind Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Buenos Aires has a better quality of life than Dubai and Santiago beats out such cities as Taipei and Cape Town.

In Brazil, Latin America's largest economy, the best city in overall quality of life is capital Brasilia, according to Mercer. That city, artificially created in 1960, beats Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

In Mexico, Latin America's second-largest economy, business hub Monterrey beat out capital Mexico City.

Other notable results:

  • Panama City, one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in Latin America, came in fourth place.
  • Asuncion in Paraguay, which normally ranks low in international business rankings, came in 8th place among Latin American cities.



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