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Inflation round-up

Late last year we reported extensively on Turkmenistan, whose capital city, Ashgabat, had become the world's most expensive location for expatriate workers. ECA's September 2018 Cost of Living Survey had highlighted the impact on expat purchasing power of both exchange rate and inflation factors, providing information not easily obtainable in the secretive country.

In our March 2019 survey, Ashgabat increased its lead at the top of the cost of living league, with ECA having calculated annual inflation for expats there at 94%, up significantly from around 50% six months previously. At the same time the manat's exchange rates (both official and black market) had been stable. 

For countries in such flux and whose authorities provide too little information for global mobility teams to ensure their international staff continue to be remunerated fairly, ECA carries out interim cost of living surveys between our main ones of March and September. We have just published our June 2019 interim survey and Turkmenistan's expat inflation has slowed markedly, to only 5% in the three months since March. With exchange rates again stable, indices will still rise for most expats in Ashgabat, but the upward pressure is finally subsiding, it seems.

Only ECA International provides such a full cost of living picture for Turkmenistan, whose government publishes official inflation data just once a year, and even then it is woefully inaccurate and unusable for calculating expat pay. The last national figure they gave was 9.4% at the end of 2018, about a tenth of what we recorded for expats in Ashgabat. With the government's rate being below 10%, Turkmenistan hasn't appeared on our blog's regular high-inflation countries table, which only notes official statistics. More reliable data would have made it ever-present in the last year.

High-inflation countries (CPI 10%+)
Country CPI % Last reported Trend IMF 2019 forecast %
Angola 17.4 May-19 ► Stable 17.5
Argentina 57.3 May-19 ▲ Rising 43.7
Egypt 14.1 May-19 ▲ Rising 14.5
Ethiopia 11.1 Mar-19 ► Stable 9.3
Haiti 17.7 Apr-19 ► Stable 14.9
Iran 50.4 Jun-19 ► Stable 37.2
Liberia 25.8 Mar-19 ▲ Rising 22.3
Nigeria 11.8 May-19 ► Stable 11.7
Sierra Leone 17.5 Mar-19 ► Stable 15.8
South Sudan 56.1 Mar-19 ▲ Rising 24.5
Sudan 47.8 Jun-19 ► Stable 50.0
Turkey 15.7 Jun-19 ▼ Falling 17.5
Uzbekistan 14.3 Dec-18 ► Stable 16.5
Venezuela 282 972.8 Apr-19 ▼ Falling 10 000 000.0
Zimbabwe 97.8 May-19 ▲ Rising 73.4

Talking of rarely-published official data, Venezuela's government surprised everyone recently by releasing an annualised inflation figure for the first time since December 2015. The rate given is in the table above, but may be pretty meaningless given the difficulties of collecting such a broad range of data in such a crisis-hit country. Again, ECA's data, which focuses only on expat purchasing patterns and prices, is much more useful and essential for global mobility teams. Our interim survey shows that inflation is slowing sharply in Venezuela too, although at 93% in the three months to June, it is still very high.

Elsewhere, although 'armyworm' and 'swine fever' may sound more like gamers' handles, epidemics of both are causing inflation to rise rapidly in China and are likely to have a knock-on effect across Asia and other emerging markets. Chinese annual inflation jumped to 2.7% in May, a 15-month high, due mainly to an 18.2% rise in pork prices.

Finally, here is our regular inflation watch list:

On watch! (notable rise in inflation, but below 10%)
Country Latest CPI % Data month Up from
Honduras 5.1 May-19 4.1% Mar-19
Mongolia 7.9 May-19 6.6% Mar-19
Myanmar 8.7 Apr-19 6.7% Feb-19
Nepal 5.3 May-19 4.2% Mar-19
Nicaragua 6.0 May-19 3.3% Jan-19
Pakistan 8.9 Jun-19 7.2% Jan-19
Tajikistan 8.8 May-19 7.8% Mar-19
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