How did Hong Kong top a global liveability ranking associated with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)? Just as Hong Kong people can't believe their city came first, cities such as Melbourne, Vancouver and others, who usually do well in the research organisation's annual surveys of liveability, may wonder why they fell behind.
The answer lies in how the ranking was done. The new list was the result of a contest jointly organised by the EIU and a data-sharing company. It uses the EIU's own indicators for liveability, as well as a newly devised 'spatially adjusted' index for 25 per cent of the score.
The revised index was designed to assess factors such as a city's green space, sprawl, natural and cultural assets, and connectivity, while the EIU's indicators covered infrastructure, social stability, health care, education, culture and the environment.
In 2011, Melbourne came first, Vienna was second, with Vancouver third in the EIU survey. Hong Kong was 31st, of 140 cities. In the revised list, Hong Kong's final score edged out those for Amsterdam and Osaka, with Paris, Sydney and Stockholm next, followed by Berlin, Toronto, Munich and Tokyo.
The EIU surveys of cities' liveability are designed to help multinational companies 'reliably' calculate expatriate relocation packages, benchmark perceptions of development across different cities, and enable someone who wishes to relocate to consider the 'lifestyle' in different cities.
What this survey is really saying is Hong Kong is a very good place for multinational companies to operate in and from. There are other surveys that make it clear that the cost of living in Hong Kong is not cheap, but this latest ranking shows that Hong Kong is politically and socially stable, has good infrastructure and local transport, and provides quality private health care and education services - if you pay for them.
Hong Kong scores well on green spaces because of our magnificent country parks that are not only highly accessible by public transport, but are also rich natural assets. We are surrounded by water - another natural asset.
Hong Kong's cultural life has grown, and will continue to grow with the development of the West Kowloon Cultural District, as well as mega art exhibitions and auctions.
As for pollution, Hong Kong is known for its poor air quality. While this has deterred international talent from staying or relocating here, the city's overall score in other areas was high enough to catapult it to the top position.
The message for us is straightforward - Hong Kong is a good place for international business. We know that already. But we have failed to appreciate some of the city's unique natural assets, which we must continue to improve. We can extend our marine parks, for example, create lush urban green spaces and improve the city's walking experience.
Our biggest negative is air pollution. The government is duty-bound to clean up our dirty air for the sake of everyone who lives here. To start with, our new administration should not be afraid to tighten the air quality standards even further.
Christine Loh Kung-wai is chief executive of the think tank Civic Exchange. firstname.lastname@example.org