Booming years for Singapore but a lost decade for Hong Kong? | South China Morning Post
  • Wed
  • Apr 1, 2015
  • Updated: 9:09am
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

BIO

George Chen is Managing Editor for SCMP.com International Edition and Mr. Shangkong Columnist. George has covered China's political and economic changes since 2002. George is the author of two books: This is Hong Kong I Know (2014) and Foreign Banks in China (2011). George has been named a 2014 Yale World Fellow. Follow George on Twitter: @george_chen.
 

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

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