Bombaywallah & Mumbaikar Discuss (4): Mumbai Is Like New York Now!

Two friends – Bombaywallah and Mumbaikar – discuss whether Maximum City is indeed the second least expensive city in the world.

Bombaywallah: Do you know that Bombay is the second cheapest city in the world?

Mumbaikar: Come on, it’s two in the afternoon on a Tuesday! Don’t tell me that you have already opened a bottle of wine today! Such loose talk, so early in the day!

Bombaywallah: No, no, it was all over the news a few days back. It’s a report by the Swiss investment bankers UBS. UBS has been making this report every three years since 1976 and Bombay was, in fact, the cheapest city in the world in the 2003 report.

Mumbaikar: So, Mumbai has become less cheap in the last three years?

Bombaywallah: Yes. In fact, in 2003 if the reference basket of goods and services cost $100 in New York, it cost $27.5 and $23.5 in Bombay with and without rent. In 2006, it costs $38.5 and $41.5 against $100 in New York.

Mumbaikar: So, the rent in Mumbai has increased faster than the rent in New York! I always knew that!

Bombaywallah: Not only the rent, all costs in Bombay have increased faster than in New York. Costs in Bombay, relative to New York, have increased by 40% without rent and 76% with rent.

Mumbaikar: So, not only are we poorer, we are also paying more than ever before!

Bombaywallah: Not really, because although costs have increased, wages have increased faster. In 2003, the gross and net hourly wages in Bombay were $3.7 and $4.6 against $100 in New York; in 2006, they have doubled to $7.0 and $8.7 against $100 in New York. As a result, the purchasing power in Bombay has increased from 19.9% of the purchasing power in New York in 2003 to 26.5% in 2006.

Mumbaikar: That’s probably because we are working harder than ever before!

Bombaywallah: Not really. In 2003, people in Bombay worked 2347 hours in a year, almost 27% more than 1843 hours in New York. In 2006, we work only 2205 hours, while people in New York work 1869 hours, and the gap has reduced to only 18%.

Mumbaikar: So, Mumbai is becoming more like New York!

Bombaywallah: Well, yes and no, and here’s why. In 2003 it required 112 minutes of work in Bombay to buy a Big Mac, against 12 minutes in New York. In 2006, it required only 70 minutes of work in Bombay to buy a Big Mac, against 13 minutes in New York.

Mumbaikar: So, while Mumbai is becoming more like New York, it still isn’t New York yet, not if you want to eat at McDonalds!

Overheard in a really long ordering queue at the McDonalds outlet at the High Street Phoenix Mall.

Read the other entries in the series here: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5).

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