Great city, but only with a pinch of salt

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Our city has no shortage of sobriquets - the world's freest economy, Asia's world city, Pearl of the Orient. We also feature in all sorts of surveys and rankings, some of which find that we are not always shown in the most positive light. For example, we have been repeatedly warned that the cost of living for expatriates here is one of the world's highest.

Of all the titles we have earned, one stands out as the most baffling. According to a study published last week, Hong Kong is the world's best city to live in, beating the likes of Sydney, Amsterdam and Boston.

To the seven million people who call this place home this is surprising, if not unbelievable. For both locals and foreigners, Hong Kong is more likely to evoke thoughts of a concrete jungle, noisy traffic, choking air and hectic city life. These negative impressions probably contributed to the city ranking 10th in an earlier study of its liveability by the Economist Intelligence Unit. But the unit's latest ranking, which uses different criteria for assessment, put Hong Kong in a different perspective. After taking into account new factors such green spaces, connectivity as well as cultural and natural assets, the city receives the best score.

Ranking cities is an inexact science. However good the methodology that has been used, the findings should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see that another side to the city has not been forgotten. Beyond its densely packed skyscrapers and urban slums, there is a backyard of lush, green country parks, world-class natural wonders and pristine beaches - all within reach in an hour.

Our latest crown may instil feel-good sentiment or even boost tourism. But it will take more than rankings to make us truly the best place in which to live. Too often we take our strengths and inadequacies for granted. The EIU's latest ranking is a good reminder that there is no room for complacency.