Despite our problems, Hongkongers can take pride

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 1:34am

Few cities have such an impressive list of accolades as Hong Kong. We are consistently rated as the freest economy, with a relatively clean and efficient government. Our city is also among the safest on the planet. Low crime rate aside, we are fortunate to escape unscathed most of the time even when hit by natural disasters such as typhoons. We also tend to live longer today. According to the latest UN Human Development Report, our life expectancy reaches 82.8 years on average, making us the second-longest-living people in the world. Recently, we were briefly, and surprisingly, crowned the most liveable city by a research agency. With such achievements, one would have thought the city's seven million residents would be happy to call it home.

However, people do not necessarily feel happy. According to the Happy Planet Index compiled by the New Economics Foundation, we ranked 102nd with a score of 5.6 out of 10, only slightly above the world average of 5.28. That our long list of world titles fails to cheer us up is hardly surprising. Although we are the world's freest economy, many are still struggling to make a decent living with an hourly wage of just HK$28. Longevity also appears to be a mixed blessing. It is hardly a comfort to live longer when a patient has to wait years to undergo an operation in a public hospital.

That is not to say Hong Kong is a terrible place in which to live. Very often the positive side of our city has been overlooked. The benefits have been part of our daily life, so much so that we take them for granted. For instance, our transport system is arguably the world's best. We are never far from a restaurant or a shop. Despite an overloaded public health care system, medical help will be provided to locals and foreigners alike. We also have a wealth of unique strengths that we should be proud of. Our tax rate is among the world's lowest. The lack of natural resources is made up for by a resilient workforce. We remain the freest Chinese city. The economic opportunities arising from closer integration with the mainland are enormous.

Whether people are happy with the place in which they live depends on a wide range of factors. The environment, job opportunities, cost of living, education, health care, transport, civil liberties and governance - all these contribute to the quality of living. Hong Kong may not be the best place to live. But taking everything into account, there are good reasons why many still proudly call this place home.