World’s Most Liveable Cities

Mar 1st, 2011, in Featured, News, by

Hovering around the nether regions of the Economist’s World’s Most Livable Cities list is the Big Durian.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s World’s Most Livable City list is out, the report costs $500 so I haven’t seen the full list but it seems that Jakarta placed 125th out of 140 – no surprises there, although at least in this list it is not in the top ten worst.

The criteria that the Economist relies on appear to be:

  • Stability
  • Healthcare
  • Culture and environment
  • Education
  • Infrastructure

Probably we should start at the bottom to reassure ourselves, here is the bottom ten:

  • Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Dhaka , Bangladesh
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Lagos, Nigeria
  • Algiers , Algeria
  • Karachi, Pakistan
  • Douala, Cameroon
  • Tehran, Iran
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka

It appears only Jakarta was surveyed, not Surabaya, Medan (the worst city ever according to a ridiculous Australian journalist ), etc.

For further comparison, the top Asian city was Osaka at number 12, then the Japanese capital Tokyo, at 18. Hong Kong at 31, then Singapore (55), Taipei (64), Beijing (72), Kuala Lumpur (78), Bangkok (101), Hanoi (123).

And top ten, dominated by Anglophone Canada and Australia plus New Zealand; however the mother country’s capital London came in at a dismal 53rd.

  1. Vancouver, Canada
  2. Melbourne, Australia
  3. Vienna, Austria
  4. Toronto, Canada
  5. Calgary, Canada
  6. Helsinki, Finland
  7. Sydney, Australia
  8. Perth, Australia
  9. Adelaide, Australia
  10. Auckland, New Zealand

The best ranked US city was Pittsburgh at 29th.

A map of the top ten and bottom ten:

Map of world's most liveable cities

22 Comments on “World’s Most Liveable Cities”

  1. perseus says:

    If Sydney is 7th best God help those that are even worse…

  2. Odinius says:

    Jakarta’s placing in the bottom quarter isn’t really too much of a surprise…the metrics they use favor developed world cities, medium-sized cities that aren’t too densely packed, cities in countries with comprehensive universal health care and cities with mass transit and well-planned urban zones. Jakarta fits into none of these categories.

    It is indeed too bad that other Indonesian cities weren’t included. If you avoid the disaster down near Sunan Ampel, Surabaya is a remarkably well-run city for Indonesia (traffic is orderly and not even remotely the cluster*** of Jakarta, public space is kept fairly clean, there are sidewalks, pollution is contained largely in one part of the metropolis, away from the business center and most major residential areas, etc.). It might not make the top 50, but I bet it would make the top 100.

  3. Arie Brand says:

    Well, for what it is worth, on last year’s list (when Jakarta was also placed 125th) that den of ‘crime out-of-control’ and ‘rampant kidnapping’, Manila, was placed 107th. Cebu, Davao and Bacolod would do certainly better.

  4. Hans says:

    Manila 105? Jakarta 125th
    Do not understand, it´s a few years ago I was in Manila. Jakarta is really child’s play in the playground compared to Manila, nastier and any tougher than Manila, I have never experienced. has a real and even had armed escorts to make my way in the city. have ended up where I had to get through a hole hop with beggar children, I am powerless to act in such situations, although there may be life dangerous for me, but I just can not ????

  5. Arie Brand says:

    and even had armed escorts to make my way in the city.

    Oh dear, next time don’t try to smuggle all that gold in.

  6. Odinius says:

    Hans said:

    Jakarta is really child’s play in the playground compared to Manila

    I’d say anyone who, with a straight face, claims Manila is more “livable” than Jakarta clearly has little experience with one or the other. The flavorless cuisine alone makes it unbearable, not to mention the far greater incidence of violent crime you allude to.

    That said, Jakarta is not a very livable city by any of the metrics chosen by the EIU to determine livability. There are, however, other cities in Indonesia that are. Same goes for the Philippines, as Arie points out. But not sure I’d put Davao on that list, Arie.

  7. Hans says:

    Not Gold, it were the gold mines that was interesting!
    Today I do not chase it this the god’s finest. I thinkkkkkk!

  8. Arie Brand says:

    The flavorless cuisine alone makes it unbearable,

    If you don’t like Filipino (or rather Tagalog) food there are in Manila countless other opportunities, including Indonesian/Malaysian ones.

    You speak about the criteria employed by the Economist as if they are a collection of Western -parochial metrics. To me they look pretty universal. And the fact remains that, measured by those criteria, they saw fit to put Manila ahead of Jakarta.

    But not sure I’d put Davao on that list,

    Davao is spacious, pretty clean, has an abundance of fruits and vegetables, a relatively mild cyclone free climate and is comparatively safe – thanks to the fact that it is very unsafe for criminals. The Dutertes’ (now father and daughter, respectively vice-mayor and mayor) extra-legal methods of removing them from the city, sometimes straight to the cemetery, have taken care of that. Of course this greatly detracts from its liveability for those who set store to human rights (among whom I count myself).

    The terrorist activities in the South are mainly found in the Sulu Archipelago, and as far as urban centers are concerned: Cotabato and Zamboanga. However here too one can hardly speak of a a ‘major insurrection’. There is sort of a ‘modus vivendi’ with the ‘official’ Moro Liberation Front.

  9. Arie Brand says:

    Manila suffers from an image problem. Whether or not it really has a higher crime rate than Bangkok or Jakarta is difficult to establish in view of the unreliability of the various police statistics.

    When I first visited Manila I was continuously looking over my shoulder until, after a few days, I realised that that was foolish. I read Hans’s post to my wife who is from Cebu but has worked in Manila and when we came to the bit about Hans needing ‘armed escorts’ (plural) to make his way through the city we said , simultaneously, BS. Odinius, somehow this bit did not prevent you from quoting Hans as a ‘ witness for the prosecution’.

    Here, for what it is worth, is a recent post I read on a blog called the Virtual Tourist:

    Having just returned from a visit to Manila I can honestly say that at no time did I feel frightened, intimidated or unwelcome. Nor did I feel unsafe or in any danger. Having read lots of reports on how Manila is not safe etc I ventured forth into Manila full of trepidation, fully expecting to get robbed or at least have my pocket picked at some point during my visit. Of course, these things never happened, mainly because I do not let them happen, by making sure the opportunity did not arise. Thieves do need to be encouraged to commit their deeds. Of course, there is street crime in Manila, just as there is any major capital city of the world (perhaps with the exception of Tokyo) but I felt totally safe all the time I was there. Granted, I am a big guy, but size has nothing to do with it in my book, it is opportunity that is key to someone becoming a victim. Give a desperate thief the opportunity to steal from you and he/she will. I feel it is wrong to advise people not to go to Manila, or anywhere else for that matter, just because the place has a relatively high crime rate.
    Manila is as safe as anywhere else, but it is up to the individual to make it so!!

    His last sentence seems to be at odds with the one before that but I think what he means is that Manila is as safe for (white) foreigners as anywhere else ..

  10. Odinius says:

    Except that the death squads don’t just kill criminals, do they.

    Pretty dark stuff. Reminds me of the Petrus killings.

    Btw Arie, I find it interesting that you are quite charitable to the Philippines (e.g. Davao is “safe,” Manila has an “image problem”) but do not extend the same benefit of the doubt the Indonesia. The Philippines is, statistically and by experience, a more dangerous place today than Indonesia. So why wouldn’t Jakarta, for example, also “suffer from an image problem?” It does, but it’s also somewhat deserved. In Manila’s case too. Both cities are desperately in need of a comprehensive makeover, a la Bangkok. But the point stands. Indonesia has some of the worst PR in the world, particularly on the terrorism issue. There are many other countries with appreciably more terrorism (the Philippines included) that don’t get the bad press Indonesia does on the topic. This site, as fun as it is, is raft with such negative-stereotype-perpetuation.

    All that said, Jakarta and Manila both suffer from being quite bad at the things the EIU judges livability on. So as far as their metric is concerned, it’s no surprise either fares poorly. But considering Manila’s much worse crime problem, I have a hard time seeing it as “more livable.” At best, it’s a wash.

    Bangkok, on the other hand, deserves a somewhat higher rating than Jakarta. Astute planning has reduced the traffic problem (which was once worse than Jakarta’s) and made the city much more navigable. Plus street food is less likely to give you typhus, thanks to an effective health department and an understanding that thousands of sick backpackers is bad for tourism.

    My comment on the ranking system, of course, is that it’s highly subjective what makes a city livable. The EIU uses one standard that does bias towards mid-size cities in developed countries that were built relatively recently…rightly or wrongly. There are other standards too, with different results. All seem to think Melbourne and Vancouver are nice places, though (and they are).

    All that said, some of the individual rankings seem to be just, well, uninformed. Ever been to Hanoi? It’s relatively clean, easy to get around, dirt cheap, has a very low crime rate and is full of people exercising at all hours of the day and night. It’s a very livable place, and much more so than many of the cities that rank above it. It’s very difficult for me to understand how someone who has presumably visited Bangkok, Manila and Hanoi can rank–by the EIU’s own standards–those cities in that order. I suspect that this was done remotely, with little attention to detail when it comes to the developing world.

  11. Hans says:

    When I am traveling. I walk a lot, for hours. Cities in Asia, where it feels okay to walk are the Japanese, many mil in the towns down from Kobe up to Tokyo. Manado was ok and felt safe and well. Jakarta incredibly difficult city to get around in on foot, but it still feels quite safe, and it’s sort of attention, imagine what many out there who want me to go with them when I’m out and exercise and are in this lookaround watch mode, a thing I have is to see evry lost coin, my wife was quite irritated with this character! she is now more accustomed to that I see them, and everything and nothing.

    In Manila Of course it depends on individual security on where you are, what time it is. but still, I think Manila sensitivity much worse than if you get lost and will be wrong in New York city.
    Davao Have never been there, have friends there who say it is the country’s safest city, where they play golf also flies this radio-controlled model aircraft. they look at suspected criminals! shoot them first and then asks, apparently it has worked, beq that everyone feels safe and secure.

  12. Arie Brand says:


    Btw Arie, I find it interesting that you are quite charitable to the Philippines (e.g. Davao is “safe,” Manila has an “image problem”) but do not extend the same benefit of the doubt the Indonesia

    It is not a matter of not giving Indonesia the benefit of the doubt – it is more a question of giving your writings that benefit and, actually, it is not even that – I just wondered why your statements about Indonesia seem, in tone and content, so much at odds with most other expatriate contributions to this forum. Well perhaps it is true that these latter ones are from the shock jocks and yours is the serious comment of ‘Behind the News’.

    Re Manila’s image problem: my impression is (I know of no figures here) that those who have nothing to do with Indonesia hardly have an image of Jakarta at all, either positive or negative, whereas those who have never been to the Philippines still often associate the name Manila with violence and crime. Try it out in your own environment.

    But the point stands. Indonesia has some of the worst PR in the world, particularly on the terrorism issue.

    Hmm. In the other place I have often written about, Israel, they are also constantly claiming that its increasingly negative image is mainly due to bad PR.

    I think the old joke about the snap diagnosis by that psychiatrist is equally relevant to both places: “You feel inferior because you are inferior – that’s then ten guineas please.”

    These places have a bad reputation because they have committed and are committing foul deeds. And the foul deeds often surpass the reputation. Indonesia did, in my view, for instance not get the notoriety it deserves for what it has done in Papua. People know far more about the Colonels’ regime in Greece, the Pinochet regime in Chile, the Generals’ regime in Argentina, than about Indonesia’s governance in Papua. Yet in terms of numbers of victims that latter odious administration has been far more catastrophic. The other scenes of its misdeeds, Aceh and East Timor, are better known.

    There is nothing comparable in the Philippines’ recent history, bad as it in many ways has been.

    Hanoi? It’s relatively clean, easy to get around, dirt cheap, has a very low crime rate and is full of people exercising at all hours of the day and night. It’s a very livable place, and much more so than many of the cities that rank above it

    You seem to be mainly talking about its agreeableness to tourists. The liveability survey had people in mind who have to live there on a long term basis. Then issues play a role that rarely affect tourists such as governmental arbitrariness and corruption.

  13. Arie Brand says:

    Perseus said:

    If Sydney is 7th best God help those that are even worse…

    Perseus, I am curious to know what you have against the place. I find it a very pleasant city with splendid parks and magnificent water views. Also, in some of its green suburbs you can live more quietly than in most country towns (where there is often a railway line and/or highway nearby). It is a pity that its real estate is so expensive.

    Sydney has been praised by a long line of foreign observers. Anthony Trollope, who came here about 140 years ago, admired its park lands and the convenience of having them so near the center (he was less flattering about NSW’s second city, Newcastle, where he found, among other things, a ‘gentlemen’s club with no gentlemen’). The British poet and heritage buff, John Betjeman, was surprised that its heart had retained more of a Victorian character (with much splendid sandstone architecture) than most other cities in the Commonwealth. The travel writer Jan Morris wrote an entire book about the place which she now gives pride of place among all cities in the Commonwealth (she was less flattering about it in the past). She likes the sphere of optimism and vitality of the place and its ‘multicultural’ character. And so do I.

  14. Odinius says:


    The Israel/bad PR example you bring up is an interesting one. Whether it does or does not really depends on what you compare it to. Conflict zones or democracies? European countries or Middle Eastern ones?

    Indonesia, on the terrorism issue, isn’t so conditional. Most major South and Southeast Asian countries have some problems with terrorism, and many of them have appreciably worse ones than Indonesia–I’m putting Thailand, the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh on that list, as countries with more frequent attacks and more deaths from terrorism over the past decade. But none of these, as far as I know, inspired books with titles like “Al Qaeda’s Second Front” or “Seeds of Terror.”

    People also view Indonesia as “inherently dangerous.” Is it though? I find it remarkably safe, considering its poverty and population density. As for being “at odds with others” on this, I suggest you refer to Oigal’s excellent post on “The Expat and the Muslim Hordes.” He deconstructs the “sky-is-falling” mentality many expatriates have quite astutely.

  15. Hans says:

    Still cold – three minus her in southern Sweden,
    Ski World Cup in Holmenkollen, Oslo, Great games, two gold medals so far, to us.
    Sydney, hmm yes I also love the Darling area, would consider myself to live there, but I prefer Aukland: New Zeland.
    A lot of talk about Israel, are there any more than me who walked around in this country’s cities, the whole structure is very superior to its neighbors and it feels safe.
    Beirut was perhaps foolish but brave in 1980, how nice people were walking around there from foxhole to foxhole, I did say hello to very surprised soldiers, who probably wondered what, why, Beirut, yes I could have died there but the experience is so great that it was worth it; pity that fools will destroy much for many in the name of religion.
    Do we nead Religion, can we kill it.

  16. Hans says:

    The capital of the autonomous Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby. So little I know, I’ve always had the distorted image, already since the sixties, I believe that this part of the world was something of a paradise. what went wrong after independence, unemployment is between 60 and 90 percent. and apparently neglect in general all

  17. Arie Brand says:

    Most major South and Southeast Asian countries have some problems with terrorism, and many of them have appreciably worse ones than Indonesia–I’m putting Thailand, the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh on that list, as countries with more frequent attacks and more deaths from terrorism over the past decade.

    Odinius we are talking about different things. I referred to state sponsored terrorism for which Indonesia has not yet received the full odium it deserves.

    As far as the other kind of terrorism is concerned: I don’t know about any deed in either the Philippines or Thailand of equally gruesome proportions as the Bali bombing.

  18. Hans says:

    Censorship in Thailand is very extensive, what happens in that country is a secret for most people. I have a brother who lives there, when he wants to know something, he have to look at foreign news, satellite, Internet, newspapers. That Islamic terrorists fighting in Thailand, we know, how many deaths and so we never whill find out. tourism industry is large and the Japanese industry is larger. so it´s a natural way to Thailand to present itself as a peaceful and beautiful country for abroad.
    Moreover, it is a strange country. the King owns the land, farmers can borrow it for cultivating rice. the King does not own everything, but very much.

    I have only visited the transit hall at Bangkok airport.

  19. Arie Brand says:

    I have only visited the transit hall at Bangkok airport

    It shows.

  20. Hans says:

    yes It shows.

    whitepixling is a mass media phenomenon, and some from the ranks of political Arab correctness.

    The phenomenon whitepixling, based mainly on a mass media bias of the perpetrator’s skin color and geographical location, for example by a touch up a picture of a dark-skinned person to be portrayed as CAUCASIAN in the publication of the image in the article. The basis for the conclusion of the phenomenon and its impact that mass media and political accurate tool that propaganda is because of that, even several times chosen to pixels other parts of the body such as arms, legs, hands and neck – even if the original image contains tattoos or anything else that could identify the offender in those parts of the body. This phenomenon will include raised by some muslim immigrant groups, the muslim over-representation in certain criminal contexts. When the images are retouched often described the perpetrator or the main character in the article as white, European or in some cases, white European football star.

  21. Nathan says:

    Jakarta is obviously not “livable” by any rational standards. Take the suffocation pollution, never-ending traffic jams, and severely lacking pedestrian/bicycle facilities, just to name a few.

    That being said, I do have a soft spot for it. It is an extremely safe city, particularly given its size and high level of overall urban chaos. The people are generally friendly and exude that uniquely Indonesian warmth and curiousness. The food is pretty good, too.

    I think the terrorism threat is a bit overblown–for now. I add the “for now” caveat because I have seen an alarming uptick in religious violence over the last nine months. Nothing that I’ve seen so far has been directed at expats or Westerners (bules), but rather Christian churches and the Ahmadiyah (a more liberal Islam sect) followers. The FPI in Jakarta, however, does seem to be intent on squashing cultural elements–arts, movies, music–that they see as being inherently anti-Islamic. All of these issues are small in the grand scheme of things at the moment, but if the government allows them to continue unabated they may well grow into a much nastier problem than anyone is prepared to deal with.

  22. Kevin says:

    Jakarta is actually not that bad
    despite the arousing problems such as lacking of pedestrian facilities and public transportation, which is ashamebly behind all of their neighbour

    but its better than Manila KL or Ho chin minh, in terms of food, lifestyle and amneties, i find Manila more chaotic and rough to lived in, although the people are indeed friendly the Indonesians are even more friendlier and open-minded in terms of religious tolerance than of Manila

    KL is nice and better city than Jakarta but once you dug about the social conflict between ethnic groups and racis bulcraps thats going on within the country, i wouldn’t send my children to live there

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