KL: An Affordable City

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KL has it all, and while locals may only see traffic jams and pollution, foreigners are discovering a land of plenty, where they can upgrade their lifestyle and enjoy all the pleasures this vibrant capital has to offer. While many people opt to retire in Malaysia, the vast majority of expats have arrived here for work.

Businesses large and small have been attracted to Malaysia for many years thanks to the country’s speedy rate of development, and InvestKL is one of the initiatives spreading the word to international businesses on the assets of the capital. This company, formed in 2010 as part of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), is striving to reach its goal of attracting 100 multinationals to set up headquarters in KL by 2020. Thanks to the city’s wealth of opportunities, InvestKL is quietly confident. “The capital city is a catalyst for growth,” explains Zainal Amanshah, CEO of InvestKL, “and there are a lot of opportunities here for multinationals.”

KL is well-positioned in Southeast Asia for companies to do business, and one of the huge factors in persuading companies to invest here is the fact that living costs are, for a modern city, extraordinarily low on a global scale, and highly competitive in the region. According to the Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living report, KL remains one of the least-expensive major cities in the world. In a survey of 214 cities, KL ranked just 104th, while Singapore was an eye-watering 8th and Tokyo came in 2nd. Many people assume that nearby Indonesia and Thailand offer a lower cost of living, and yet Jakarta ranked 69th and Bangkok came in 88th.

“KL is marvellously inexpensive by Western standards,” writes Wendy Justice, the Asia correspondent for the American advice website, Live and Invest Overseas. “You can realistically expect to cut your living expenses by a third.”

Malaysians may take for granted the price of things such as petrol, groceries, and transport, but anyone who arrives in KL from Europe or America is astounded to find these vital amenities cost so little. As of June 2012, UK petrol prices were at GBP1.20 (RM5.90) per litre, so it’s easy to see why British expats delight in paying just RM1.90 per litre in their new home.

These staggering savings spread across all manner of amenities, and even nearby Singapore can’t compete when it comes to living costs. According to Numebeo, a free database that compares country living costs, groceries are 67% more expensive in Singapore than Malaysia, while rent costs a terrifying 650% more in Singapore!

American housewife Teri Vidrine has moved with her husband to various cities in the world, but finds KL compares favourably. “Housing prices here are much lower and we are able to afford a much nicer place than in Russia,” she explains. “Being able to hire household help is a big bonus, and maids’ salaries are more affordable than in the States.”

Scottish housewife Shelagh McKay agrees. “Things are cheaper here in KL than at home in the UK. We enjoy a higher standard of living here than we would in Scotland.”

Not only is the cost of living low, the cost of doing business is also low. Thanks to lower rentals on office space, lower salaries, and cheap connecting flights throughout the region, multinationals and their employees can see the benefits of running their business from KL.

British-born Kieran McCarry came to Malaysia on an expat package a number of years ago and has enjoyed a very comfortable standard of living. He is the owner of Clarisound Hearing Care, and while he and his family are well-catered to financially, he has also found costs to be competitive in the workplace.


“Salaries are lower here so labour costs are low,” he says, “and I don’t think it will change in the near future.” It seems KL is set to be an affordable business option for many years to come.

With low costs for living and working combining with endless sunshine, the decision to move to KL is a simple one. If their foreign workers are willing to move their lives for their job, then there can be no reason why multinational companies themselves can’t flourish here in one of the few cities in the region that combines affordable living costs with a booming, business scene and an attractive, comfortable environment. With this in mind, it seems it will only be a matter of time before InvestKL achieves its goal and helps to transform this nation into a world player by 2020.

For more information visit www.numebeo.com; www.liveandinvestoverseas.com; www.investkl.com.my.

Source: The Expat August 2012
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