Corporate group ranks Tel Aviv as top quality city in the Mideast

JERUSALEM — It was a typical night in Tel Aviv's central bus station, with the rotting trash, rats, hookers, drunks and the smell of urine all around — but the city that never sleeps could be proud of itself. Tuesday it was declared the No. 1 quality city in the Middle East.

The Swiss-based Corporate Resources Group (CRG) issued its 1997 rankings for 192 world cities. Tel Aviv inexplicably nudged beautiful Dubai and marble-clad Abu Dhabi into second and third places.

The CRG advises the world's most important multinational companies and organizations on the relative differences in living conditions around the world. Executives use the reports to calculate allowances required by their expatriate workers doing stints in far-flung places.

The annual Quality of Living Report attempts to provide an accurate and unbiased evaluation of living conditions for workers transferred abroad. It arrives at an index based on 42 defined criteria. These include housing, living costs, availability of goods and services, security, schools, health and social conditions.

New York is rated as having an index of 100. The top three cities in the world, according to these living standards, are Vancouver, Auckland, New Zealand and Toronto, with scores of 105.5, 104.8 and 104.8.

Pity the hapless executive whose boss suggests an urgent assignment to Sarajevo, Baghdad or Brazzaville, in the Congo. They score 33.3, 33, and eight – yes, that's eight for Brazzaville.

North America, Europe and Australia all have groups of cities ranking over 102. Atlanta, San Francisco and Honolulu are the best in the United States — but all are beaten by Canada's top three. Personal security worries depress rankings for most American cities.

Europe's top three are Zurich, Geneva and Helsinki. Africa is generally a dismal place all around, except for Cape Town, Johannesburg and Tunis. On the Middle East, the report says political tensions lower ratings everywhere. But Tel Aviv is indexed at 80.5, Dubai 71.3 and Abu Dhabi 70.7.

Places to avoid are Tripoli, Sana'a in Yemen and Baghdad — all below 42.

Alas, in world rankings, Tel Aviv doesn't make the top cut — it placed 87th out of 192.

Top city? Yes, but only because it's a lousy region.