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Boston MA, U.S.A.
Rents Rising

The Boston rental market is very strong. Overall, rents increased over the past six months, fueled by high demand for rentals by incoming executives. While there has been an increase in supply, particularly for apartments in the downtown and Seaport areas, demand still outpaces supply. The vacancy rate is low, with single family home rentals showing less availability than apartment rentals. Sources noted that there is a significant number of new apartments planned that could lead to more stable rents down the road.

Caracas, Venezuela
Rents Falling

Rents continued to decrease over the past six months. Many apartments are vacant, and some landlords have deferred maintenance, leading to lower quality and lower rents. Some owners have dropped their rents to attract the remaining expatriates.

Doha, Qatar
Rents Falling

Many expatriates have left Doha, resulting in a drop in rents for apartments and houses. Some remaining executives are upgrading to newer compounds in more desirable areas closer to the seaside. The incoming foreign workforce is now more often involved in construction projects, such as the new metro system and the 2022 World Cup project. Msheireb Downtown Doha is a huge downtown regeneration project covering 310,000 square meters, planned to include commercial, retail, and residential sectors. Apartments and houses in the complex are expected to be of good quality with high-end finishes.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai, U.A.E.
Rents Falling

In Abu Dhabi, limited economic growth has led to job cuts and fewer opportunities for incoming expatriates. Rents are dropping as new housing supply increases. The decrease in rents was most prominent for mid- to high-quality properties. New supply has been more regulated than before in Abu Dhabi, and the result has been less development. In Dubai, supply continues to increase, and expatriates are arriving with lower budgets and smaller family sizes. Vacancy rates are increasing, and rental negotiation is more common. A 5% VAT, implemented at the beginning of 2018, is applied to hotels and serviced apartments but not to long-term rentals.

Darwin, Australia
Rents Falling

Darwin was once a booming city, but its economy and rental market have slowed along with the oil and gas industry. Fewer companies are sending new expatriates, and vacancy rates have increased, especially for apartments. A new land tax on foreign investors will take effect July 1 in the Northern Territory. This tax follows a higher land tax for owners of investment properties that was implemented last year and is unlikely to affect rents.

Jakarta, Indonesia
Rents Falling

Jakarta’s rental market weakened as new construction added to the oversupply of rental properties. Some older properties are being renovated to keep up with the standards set by the new supply. Units with 1 or 4 bedrooms are hard to find, though executives looking for 2- to 3- bedroom apartments will have plenty to choose from. Cranes can be seen all over the city as new construction continues, despite evidence that the city is at capacity with rental units.

AIRINC surveys more than one hundred fifty locations each quarter. Here are some selections.
Q1 Surveyed Locations
Selected cities in North America, Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, and maritime Southeast Asia-Pacific
Miami FL, U.S.A
Nassau, Bahamas
Sao Paulo, Brazil
San Jose, Costa Rica
Curacao
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Phillipsburg, St. Maarten
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Maputo, Mozambique
Abuja, Nigeria
Doha, Qatar
Jubail, Saudi Arabia
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
Melbourne, Australia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Selected 3 month Exchange Rate fluctuations of more than 5% Incomplete
Q2 Upcoming Surveys
Selected cities in Europe, Asia, and mainland Southeast Asia
Vienna, Austria
Sofia, Bulgaria
Dublin, Ireland
Rome, Italy
Astana, Kazakhstan
Hague, Netherlands
Lisbon, Portugal
St. Petersburg, Russia
Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Istanbul, Turkey
Newcastle, U.K.
Guangzhou, China
New Delhi, India
Tokyo, Japan
Hanoi, Vietnam

In response to market volatility, we will also conduct survey updates in Buenos Aires and Caracas in the second quarter.

Goods and Services Inflation Incomplete
Venezuela

The DICOM auctions, suspended since August 31, 2017, have resumed. The results of the first auction since the suspension were published on February 5 and marked a significant devaluation, from 3,345 VEF to 25,000 VEF to the dollar. The DICOM rate has continued to weaken in currency auctions and currently stands at 49,477.5 VEF to the dollar. While this has been a significant devaluation, the black market rate remains much weaker and is now over 250,000 to the dollar. The DIPRO rate, which was a subsidized rate reserved for imports of medicine and some food, was also eliminated.

On March 22, President Maduro announced a plan to redenominate the Bolivar. The redenomination would begin on June 4 and would eliminate three zeros in the value of the Bolivar. The new currency would be called the Bolivar Soberano. Critics say this is merely a superficial solution and will do nothing to combat hyperinflation. This announcement followed presidential candidate Henri Falcon’s proposal to dollarize the Venezuelan economy.

Venezuela has also recently launched the world’s first state-backed cryptocurrency, the petro. The petro is backed by oil reserves and other natural resources and was introduced in part as a way for Venezuela to raise money and sidestep economic sanctions. The petro was first offered for private pre-sale on February 20, with the initial public launch scheduled for March 20. In response to the introduction, President Trump issued an executive order that bans transactions with the petro in the U.S. It remains to be seen whether the petro will catch on, and what impact it will have if it does.

Middle East

Countries that rely heavily on oil resources to drive prosperity have long understood the challenge of government funding amid volatile global commodity prices. The last decade saw the highest price in history for crude oil per barrel followed by a persistent price slump that has eaten away at expected government revenue. While Saudi Arabia has exercised some control over the oil market through OPEC’s production restrictions, recent measures to bolster the economy and fund the state have aimed at domestic consumption. Motorists are already seeing changes. In January, prices at the pump went from .75 to 1.37 SAR and .90 to 2.04 SAR per liter for octane 91 and octane 95. However, even with increases of over 82% and 126% for those fuel grades, prices are still only equivalent to 1.38 and 2.06 USD per gallon, well below the international average.

This change follows the 2017 introduction of sin taxes and was implemented alongside the new 5% VAT, which applies to most goods and services in the kingdom. On-site surveys in Saudi Arabia and the UAE this quarter showed higher than average inflation, driven especially by increases in the transportation and tobacco categories in the past six months to a year. The UAE also introduced gas price increases, as well as a 5% VAT, at the start of this year, demonstrating a concerted effort by countries in the region to diversify their funding sources and bring their gas prices more in line with their real market value.

Algeria

Like many import-dependent, petroleum-exporting countries, Algeria has experienced reduced revenues and a trade imbalance since the global drop in oil prices in 2014. Beyond increasing gas prices and consumption taxes, the country is now taking a more drastic measure–banning the import of over 850 items for two to three years in hopes of raising domestic production. The list of banned goods is vast. Within the food at home category, it includes all vegetables except garlic, all fruit except bananas, a majority of meat and dairy products, nuts, many sweets, most condiments, ice cream, juices, and more. Also included in the list of banned imports are some personal care products, such as diapers and feminine hygiene products; some household goods, such as toilet paper and plastic trash bags; and household furnishings, large appliances, and cell phones.

In our February survey of Algiers, previously familiar Food at Home brands such as Heinz and President were absent, while others, such as Nutella and St. Dalfour, were still available on store shelves. As the stock of goods imported before the ban is depleted, demand is triggering price increases for some domestically-produced goods. Some furniture prices have also increased, although pricing for most household appliances has been steady so far. Additional inflation was recorded in the categories of Transportation and Alcohol & Tobacco due to increased oil prices and increased consumption taxes on tobacco and beer, but overall inflation was tempered by categories unaffected by the government’s efforts to increase revenue.

Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa, is facing a widely publicized water shortage. During the February 2018 survey of Cape Town, we observed that supermarkets were still selling bottled water at national prices. There was plenty of availability of bottled water in supermarkets in Canal Walk, Downtown, and V&A Waterfront. In some cases, a particular brand may have been sold out, but there were other brands available. Some supermarkets were putting 5L bottled water in different aisles as well, to show availability.

The AIRINC Surveyor contacted five water companies that were recommended by real estate sources and none of the companies had run out of water. Instead, different bottle sizes were available, including a 25L water dispenser size. Only one company had run out of the 25L bottle. Companies were also encouraging customers to bring in their own empty bottles for a refill.

We also found that some malls, restaurants, and government offices had completely shut down the water supply. Restroom soap dispensers had been widely replaced by hand sanitizer dispensers to encourage people to adopt waterless hygiene.

The government is enforcing strict policies to deal with the water crisis. Each person is allocated with 50L of water per day. Sooner or later, all residential areas will have a water management device installed to restrict water usage. There is no way around this without paying a heavy fine. Though this device will work differently for apartments and houses (much depends on the number of tenants), it will effectively turn off the water supply when the limit is reached. The system will restart at 4AM the next morning.

So far, Day Zero, the day when all of Cape Town’s water taps could go dry, has been postponed. Residents hope that, with strict water enforcement, better compliance with water rules, and an adoption of hand sanitizer for hygiene, Day Zero will never come. AIRINC will conduct another survey in August 2018 and will continue to monitor the situation.

Selected 3 Month Exchange Rate Fluctuations of More Than 6%
Country Currency Change vs EUR Change vs USD
Venezuela VEF -92.70% -92.40%
Sudan SDG -64.60% -63.00%
Angola AOA -26.30% -22.90%
Argentina ARS -18.10% -14.40%
Iran IRR -9.70% -5.60%
Mozambique MZN -8.40% -4.20%
Dominican Republic DOP -7.90% -3.60%
Philippines PHP -7.30% -3.10%
Rwanda RWF -7.10% -2.80%
Pakistan PKR -6.90% -2.60%
Haiti HTG -6.80% -2.70%
South Sudan SSP -6.10% -1.80%
Croatia HRK 1.30% 6.00%
Albania ALL 1.40% 6.00%
Japan JPY 1.40% 6.10%
Norway NOK 2.50% 7.20%
Georgia GEL 2.70% 7.40%
Chile CLP 3.10% 7.80%
Botswana BWP 3.20% 8.00%
South Africa ZAR 9.90% 14.90%
Goods and Services Inflation
Selected surveyed locations with inflation higher than 5% for 6 months
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Caracas, Venezuela
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Dubai, U.A.E.
Accra, Ghana
Lagos, Nigeria
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Azerbaijan

Effective 2018, there is a new mandatory contribution of 0.5% of salary for unemployment insurance, payable by both employees and employers. The net effect is an increase in social security for all taxpayers.

Belgium

Inflation indexing has been applied to deduction maximums, the income splitting amount, tax credits based on family size, other credits, and family allowances. Tax brackets have been reduced from five to four. The top marginal tax rate remains at 50%. The social security tax is unchanged. The net effect is a small reduction in tax.

France

Social Security rates and contribution ceilings (maximums), Family Allowances, and the tax rate schedule have been adjusted. The net effect varies by family size and income level, but the overall change is relatively minimal.

France Tax development for 2019:

A withholding tax system that was previously announced to take effect on January 1, 2018, has been postponed to January 1, 2019. The new withholding requirement will apply to many income types, including employment income. The rate of withholding is determined by the tax authorities based on prior tax returns submitted by the taxpayer. If the taxpayer is not on French payroll, the taxpayer is personally responsible for remitting tax on 2019 and future year income on a monthly basis.

Because payments in the existing system are made in arrears (tax due on 2017 income is paid in 2018), there will be a transitional adjustment in 2019 for tax due on income earned in 2018 to avoid a double tax burden on 2018 and 2019 income during the same year. Taxpayers will be entitled to claim a credit on “regular” income earned in 2018, effectively eliminating income tax on 2018 regular income. However, tax will still be due on “exceptional” income earned in 2018. This change in tax collection will potentially have a significant impact on global mobility programs and administrative processes, especially during the transition period. In particular, it is possible that no creditable taxes will be generated in tax year 2018 for U.S. citizens and green card holders working in France who are claiming Foreign Tax Credits on the “accrued” method, and therefore tax planning measures should be considered.

United States

In response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released an updated Withholding Calculator. The calculator indicates whether a change is needed to Federal tax withholdings, and whether the new Form W-4 should be submitted to the employer.

The IRS specifically encourages taxpayers who fall into the following groups to double-check their withholding:

  • Two-income families.
  • Taxpayers with two or more jobs at the same time or who work for only part of the year.
  • Taxpayers with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit.
  • Taxpayers who itemized deductions in 2017.
  • High-income taxpayers and those with complex tax returns.

Vietnam

Social security annual maximum contributions have increased for higher incomes. Since SS is deductible, hypo tax has decreased for higher incomes. New for 2018, inbound expatriate employees on a local contract now must contribute to social insurance as well as health insurance. Expats continue to be exempt from unemployment insurance.