Julius Baer luxury lifestyle index
Anna Healy Fenton
Rich parents with smart children are feeling the pinch across Asia, with top-flight overseas university fees rising a whopping 18 per cent a year, to US$60,000, for establishments such as Harvard and Oxford.
Something called a sculpted liquid facelift, under the heading "facial aesthetics", costs US$19,370, while the Cohiba Siglo VI - a coveted Cuban cigar - comes in at the relative bargain price of US$772.
This and more is revealed in the 2012 Julius Baer Lifestyle Index, which tracks changes in the cost of luxury items in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Mumbai.
The report acts as a kind of inflation tracker for the very rich. A rise in MTR fares will not make it into this survey. It does, however, track the cost of Louboutin ladies' pumps (which, at US$1,753, are the only index item to actually drop in price this year).
The index equally serves as a kind of lifestyle voyeurism - a look at a type of hyper status-oriented consumption for which, the more expensive it is, the more people like it. Indeed, for this kind of spending, inflation could be seen as a positive. High prices keep out the riff-raff.
Chanel quilted handbags cost an average of US$4,583. That's a rise of 9.5 per cent from last year. But if you are dropping four Gs on a handbag, do you care?
Lawyers cost almost twice as much in Shanghai as they do in Hong Kong, but a root canal is six times more expensive here than in Shanghai.
Taxes and fees make a Mercedes saloon 40 per cent more expensive in Singapore than Hong Kong, which happens to be the cheapest city of the four to buy a luxury auto, perhaps to compensate for the utter lack of road space.
Mumbai tends to be cheapest for items tracked by the survey, and Hong Kong the most expensive, except where luxury taxes push up prices in Singapore and Shanghai (but a bottle of Lafite Rothschild costs most in Hong Kong, the only city without a wine tax).
Hong Kong's crazily inflated property prices overwhelm all index measures. It costs US$33 million more to buy a 4,000-sq-ft flat in a prime location in Hong Kong versus Mumbai, savings that could buy you 160 Steinway grand pianos, another constituent of this index.