• Wed
  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 9:02pm
Mr. Shangkong
PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 4:43am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 7:50am

Booming years for Singapore but a lost decade for Hong Kong?

Once considered one of the world's great metropolises, we seem to have been eclipsed by city state's grand projects, dynamism and quality of life

Singapore is no stranger to either Shanghai or Hong Kong. When Deng Xiaoping, the late paramount leader, decided in the early 1990s to completely transform the Pudong New Area in Shanghai and open it up to foreign investors, Singapore had the chance to partner with Shanghai to develop Pudong.

Singapore eventually decided to team up with Suzhou, a smaller city near Shanghai, but developments in Singapore are still often covered by the Shanghai press and closely monitored by the municipal government, which frequently sends mid-ranking officials or senior executives at state-owned enterprises to the city state for management training.

In Hong Kong, feelings about Singapore are mixed.

Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan were known as the "Four Asian Tigers" for their economic booms in the 1970s and '80s.

Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District project seems somehow like a forgotten child

At that time, Hong Kong was often considered the leader of the pack. The city was considered as one of the world's truly global metropolises, while Singapore in the '70s and '80s, or even in the early 21st century, was more or less thought of as a regional centre for Southeast Asia.

I was in Singapore for a few days last week and I hadn't been to the city for a while. My first trip to Singapore was on a two-week training programme in 2004.

My colleagues and I stayed at a hotel near Orchard Road. At that time, the high-rises in Marina Bay didn't exist.

Today the Marina Bay Sands resort is Singapore's new landmark.

The development of the area was initiated about a decade ago. At more or less the same time, the Hong Kong government began serious work on its ambitious West Kowloon Cultural District plan.

Now Marina Bay is often featured on international television. The National Geographic channel even shot a documentary film about it.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the world, Hong Kong's project seems somehow like a forgotten child.

During my trip to Singapore last week, I met Mark Newman, the chief executive of Dutch bank ING's commercial banking arm in Asia. Newman worked in Hong Kong for about a decade and then moved to Singapore, where he has lived and worked for a decade, too.

I asked Newman to compare Hong Kong and Singapore. He said frankly that when ING tried to relocate him to Singapore, he was reluctant to move there. But now he loves Singapore and Hong Kong equally.

"About 10 years ago, I think Singapore was not very dynamic. But it has changed dramatically in the past 10 years," Newman said.

He said he finds Singapore a good fit for those who care about family life and education for their children, while pollution in Hong Kong has worsened rapidly since he left.

ING has since moved its regional headquarters to Singapore from Hong Kong.

I'm not sure if the past 10 years for Hong Kong has been a sort of lost decade, but Singapore has made a lot of progress during that time and has stood out in rankings of international cities.

Time is the best judge, isn't it?

 

George Chen is the financial editor and a columnist at the Post. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in print and online. Follow @george_chen on Twitter or visit facebook.com/mrshangkong

Share

Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

46

This article is now closed to comments

skywalker
Lost decade for HK? A the comparison of the Marina Bay Sands with the West Kowloon Cultural District is the only argument here? Oh, and one bank moved its headquarter to Singapore from HK. And Hong Kong is not featured in TV? Switch it on, Mr. Chen! I also recommend you to watch a few Blockbuster Hits from the last "lost" decade: Tomb Raider, Batman, James Bond/Die Another Day, Transformers and Pacific Rim to come. Perhaps you should do some more research before writing...
he.man69
Don't be serious, he's just a fake Hongkonger.
skywalker
Lost decade for HK? A the comparison of the Marina Bay Sands with the West Kowloon Cultural District is the only argument here? Oh, and one bank moved its headquarter to Singapore from HK. And Hong Kong is not featured in TV? Switch it on, Mr. Chen! I also recommend you to watch a few Blockbuster Hits from the last "lost" decade: Tomb Raider, Batman, James Bond/Die Another Day, Transformers and Pacific Rim to come. Perhaps you should do some more research before writing...
Sifu_628
Competition brings out the best. Singapore has advantages over Hong Kong in its political and judicial independence, while Hong Kong has benefited much from its association with the emerging of an economic superpower in China. Unlike Singapore or South Korea, Hong Kong will continue to be stymied socially, politically and spiritually from Beijing's heavy-handed governance, thereby precluding its advancement both as an international financial/business center and a leading Asian tiger. Beijing's policy is that Hong Kongers must first accept its One Country dictum before moving forward with any innovative systems or progress. Hong Kong will stay autonomous for another 35 years; unfortunately, it will regress to the third city of Guangdong Province, trailing Guangzhou and Shenzhen as its preferred trading and financial center. The biggest advance will be seen in Shanghai which will become the financial and cultural hub of an expanded China. It's evitable, for the die have been casted decades ago and decisions made by Hong Kong's colonialist (Britain) and new overlords (China) will not be easy to overturn.
JC
I guess New York and London must feel as aggrieved as HK for their lack of "independence" from their respective federal governments.
skywalker
The Sino-British declaration grants HK the right to maintain its own currency, its own financial system and its own taxation system. This part is pretty "independent". Therefore it is fully in HK's own hands to be a successful financial centre in Asia. Perhaps in this regards HK is even more independent that The UK/London, because they have always to consider the demands and wishes of the EU. Therefore: Go Hong Kong, GO!
sydmel
This is another piece of junk story with no substance produced by this author. Places flourish and decline with their own causes. Selling stories of rivalry and competition by quoting someone's personal feelings and superficial observation is not professional journalism at all. Can there be more substantive analysis on factors making the differences? How much the Singaporean government has spent on lobbying and rewarding foreign enterprises to move their headquarters there? How much GDP has been contributed by the Singaporean massive land-making reclamation and infrastructure projects? How much gambling money has benefitted the Singaporean economy? How has been the Singaporean immigration policy scoring in keeping their labour force productive? A lot of the readers might know the answers to these questions, perhaps except the author of this story unfortunately.
JC
Perhaps George should do the same for HK?
fullcircle
OK George. You get 87% for this daily essay. Just one comment: continue to work on the tone of your write-up. If you want to make it to journalism school, you need to continue working on shaking off this bedside-diary tone, ok?
The topic for your next journal entry will be announced tomorrow. Please make sure to submit on time, as usual. Class dismissed.
JC
The key reason why HK was considered the leader of the 4 Tigers in the 70s and 80s, was that Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan all had to deal with major challenges of independence - at least for Singapore and South Korea; "self-government" for Taiwan. HK on the other hand remained a British colony till 97. And just as it enjoys special privileges as a Chinese SAR from Beijing as the international gateway to the mainland, it received many perks as a British colony during the boom years of the 4 Tigers, not least of which the protection of the Bank of England (now it is the PBOC) should things go wrong. No surprise that its status as a British crown colony made it the place to be for many Western institutions. That view shifted after 97, when Singapore also "liberalized" its financial sector. Though development of the sector took root immediately after its independence in 1965 - in particular the Asian Dollar Market - "liberalization" proceeded with caution, as the city-state was a poor country with very little reserves, high unemployment and many other social challenges. Unlike HK, it did not have a "parent" central bank or security forces to bail it out should things go wrong. It was on its own from 1965 on, in a very hostile region, ravaged by racial and nationalistic bigotry, Communism and the Vietnam War. It is important to view the history of competition between HK and Singapore from this perspective. They are similar in some ways, but quite different in others.

Pages

 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or