• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:46am
CommentInsight & Opinion

As Hong Kong stands still our economic rivals forge ahead

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 5:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 8:52am

When it comes to freedom and competitiveness, few economies can rival Hong Kong's. We topped the world rankings two years ago, and have been named the freest economy for 20 years in a row by the United States-based Heritage Foundation. But this is not the case with our competitiveness.

In another blow to our reputation, the city has slipped one place to fourth in the IMD World Competitiveness Rankings. Hong Kong was overtaken by Singapore, which climbed to third after dropping one rank to fifth place last year. The United States and Switzerland maintain the top two positions. The study by the leading Swiss business school takes into account a wealth of criteria, including efficiency, economic performance and infrastructure in 60 places.

There are those who think it is too early to ring the alarm bells. After all, we are still the world's fourth most competitive place. Our economy remains alive and kicking, with steady growth and near full employment. Nonetheless, the news has given alarmists more reasons to fret about losing out.

The significance goes beyond catchy headlines of Hong Kong dropping out of the top three for the first time in a decade. It also turns the spotlight on a number of factors that are said to be eroding our competitiveness. For instance, our economic performance had already slid from fourth to eight in the 2012 report, mainly due to soaring property prices. Infrastructure as well as government and business efficiency also worsened. The latest report shows a slight improvement in economic performance. But government efficiency continues to draw concerns, with our position on the "decision-making" index plunging from 18th to 25th.

The report resonates with the prevailing problems facing the city. There appear to be endless rounds of studies and policy consultations without decisions. Efficiency is further hampered by filibusters staged by a handful of rebel lawmakers. The lack of a firm support base in an increasingly fragmented political landscape also makes the chief executive's job more difficult.

There is no question that Hong Kong's economy is still envied around the world. But in a rapidly changing global environment, standing still is lagging behind. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels while our rivals continue to harness their strengths for new growth and development. This setback is a timely reminder of our weaknesses and the need to catch up.


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Hong Kong's biggest asset are its core-values, being freedom of choice, freedom of speech and its democratic values, all being enhanced and safe-guarded by its rule-of-law (one should also know that rule-of-law is just a means to guard core-values, and not an end by itself - authoritarian countries also have rule-of-law). Without these, all others are irrelevant. Its these values that's attractive to people even those from mainland China. I hope our city fathers wake up to this reality and stand up to fight for them NOW. Unfortunately, short-sighted self interests are clouding their views. They should well know that once these core-values are gone, Hong Kong will just be like any other Chinese cities and definitely expendable.
Competitiveness for the very few rich ; but sufferings for the many middle class.
Economic wealth is concentrated in the hands of the very few -from policies that assume-trickle down effect. Free markets only is a concept to ruse all into believing everybody has a fair equality in opportunity. But in fact HK is moving much more backwards if we were to measure competitiveness in terms of standards of living / quality of life of the majority middle class; tiny expensive flat prices, expensive good ( English medium ) education , healthcare , no social safety nets.
We are far from Western countries in this aspect ; yet we continue gloating about being number 1 and proud to take the tittle by this silly thing called The Heritage Foundation.
Our CEO and his staff should have positive thinking about this. We do not need finger-pointing and retaliatory words from them. They must realize that there must be something wrong with them if people keep telling them they are not doing a good job!
I disagree with you on one point; Hong Kong's biggest asset are it's people and the abilities of those people to make Hong Kong better today then it was yesterday.
We are all complaining about the lemons we've been thrown that we forget that we know how to make the best lemonade on the planet. The British at least taught us that much.
And more complaining...
Stop complaining and do something about it
I do mean this with all due respect and sincerity, but do you think joining Occupy central will have any benefit and positive effect?
The Chinese Government isn't going to back down.
It is true and it's sad.
The problem with HK compared to Singapore is with its immigration policy. Between 2002 and 2012, over 50% of Singapore's immigrants possess university degree or above. In contrast, over 50% of HK's immigrants in the same period only had education level of secondary school or below. Hence in terms of skill levels and linguistic ability, HK is already miles behind that of Singapore. Moreover, Singapore does a lot better in attracting highly-skilled and educated immigrants. For example, a person with PhD who have worked in Singapore for a year, is entitled to apply for permanent residency. Yet here in HK, regardless of your level of education and skills, every new entrant must wait for 7 years before he/she is entitled for permanent residency. It is time for a major overhaul of HK's immigration policy.
Ant Lee
Whilst other cities are looking to the other international cities like NY and London for various benchmarks, HK has has been only looking inwards to mainland china and trying to learn "new ways" of doing things.
We are not doing that bad - perhaps others have simply caught up. To believe that bigger cities like Shanghai or Beijing will be always be behind HK is like driving a Toyota with a head start but thinking you'll always be ahead of a Porsche. At some point others will catch up, it's just a matter of when and how badly, and whether by than we have managed to get every or most of out HK residence to first world status. As it is now ; we are doing a bad job for the majority.



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