Hong Kong has always been considered a pricey place to live, but in fact the city can sometimes be quite inexpensive. It all depends upon what you are talking about buying.
According to a recent Deutsche Bank report entitled "Mapping the World's Prices 2013", written by global strategist Sanjeev Sanyal, the prices of many items in Hong Kong were cheaper in February than prices in 57 countries, including the United States, Britain, and most European, Asian and Latin American countries.
True, Hong Kong is "exorbitantly expensive if you want to rent office space", wrote Sanyal in his report, "but cheap if you want to buy a Big Mac or a Starbucks coffee".
Office space in Central, for instance, rented for US$166.70 per square foot annually, almost five times higher than space in New York, which went for US$35.80. Office rents in Tokyo were almost three times higher than in New York, and rents in London, Paris, and Moscow were more than double the Big Apple's.
But a 16 ounce cup of Starbucks coffee cost US$3.87 in Hong Kong, 10 per cent cheaper than the US$4.30 price tag in New York. In Oslo, the same cup of coffee cost US$9.83 and in Moscow it cost US$7.27, but in New Delhi it cost only US$2.50.
Hong Kong was the third-cheapest location worldwide for a Big Mac, at US$2.19. The cheapest was India at US$1.67.
Hong Kong was also not too bad for movie-goers, at US$10.57 for a ticket - 81 per cent of New York prices.
And Valentine's Day is a bargain in Hong Kong, with a bouquet of roses going for US$79 - the same as in Brazil and Singapore, but far below the US$113 price tag in Japan, Canada and New York, and little more than half the price in Australia, where it cost US$139.
Hong Kong offered cheap MBA courses, at about US$67,673, two-thirds of what they would cost in New York. But Singapore was cheaper at US$46,799 , India at US$27,321, and South Africa at US$18,098.
Overall, Australia and Japan were very expensive places to buy many items, and the US was the cheapest country in the developed world.
India was the cheapest in the world for most items, but pizzas there cost the same as in New York. Moscow was expensive in many respects, but cheap for smokers, with a pack of Marlboro cigarettes costing just US$1.93, far below the US$6.57 price in Hong Kong, US$12.31 in New York and US$17.22 in Melbourne.
Fine moment for a serious satire
British novelist George Orwell's Animal Farm, published in 1945, used a clever allegory of a revolution staged by a group of farm animals to show how totalitarianism inevitably generates corruption.
Now, a modern take on Orwell's tale, Market Farm, has been written by Nicholas Bradbury, a first-time novelist.
Bradbury, a financial public relations man based formerly in Hong Kong and now in Oxford, tells the story of how a bull, a donkey, and a chicken are affected by economic reforms introduced by foxes to boost productivity and profitability, in a clever allegory showing how free-market thinking led to the economic woes afflicting the US and Europe. Have a good read.