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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 2:01am

By almost any measure, Hong Kong plays second fiddle to Singapore

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 April, 2013, 3:03am

Although I admire Tan Jee Say's courage as an opposition voice in Singapore, I mostly disagree with his view that the Hong Kong government has done better than Singapore on policies related to population growth, immigration and economic well-being of its citizens ("Frontiers for growth", March 30).

To begin with, Hong Kong has already lost its identity from "mainlandisation". Singapore's per capita gross domestic product is among the world's highest, surpassing Hong Kong's. Singaporeans enjoy superior education, health care and, most importantly, an internationally respected housing scheme, making them a home-ownership society.

Temasek Holdings (the Singapore government's investment arm) also performs far better than our Mandatory Provident Fund in managing retirement savings. One also doesn't see Singapore's elderly poor collecting used cardboard boxes or living in cage homes.

Hong Kong can ill afford a population increase to the extent planned by Singapore as it can't even manage to house its current population appropriately. Hong Kong's resources, from education to public health care, are stretched to the limit. We can't even meet demand for infant milk formula!

Singapore's immigration scheme focuses mainly on skilled workers - unlike Hong Kong, which draws from the huge population across the border, straining our resources further.

Hong Kong spends a great deal on infrastructure but not enough on building a skilled local workforce, as has Singapore.

Hong Kong lags in innovation, opportunities for its youth and retraining its workforce to move up the value chain. Middle-class real wages have stagnated for years.

China maintains its household registration for the same reasons that some in Singapore don't want a substantial population increase. Perhaps Hong Kong should have its own version of the hukou system.

Hong Kong's birth rate is even lower than Singapore's, another sign of future pessimism. Our wealthy continue to pull away from the rest, hence we have a wider wealth gap than Singapore's as measured by our Gini co-efficient, which is one of the most severe in the developed world.

Populations should expand through quality growth, and capital investment in infrastructure - matched by greater investments in human capital that raise quality of life.

Singapore's economic transformation from third world to first has been remarkable. Here the transformation is just as spectacular, as we become a mainlanders' shoppers paradise - a nation of duty free shops growing by the day. This is our frontier for growth.

Bernard Lee, Tsuen Wan


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This article is now closed to comments

Mr Lee's comments are mostly accurate, although I must add, that having lived in both HK and S'pore, the Lion City does have its fair share of the poorly educated elderly poor picking up empty cans and bottles from bins for sale to recycling companies for some pocket money.
That said, it's clear that Singapore has a far more robust social safety net than Hong Kong, starting with a public housing scheme that is unmatched anywhere in the world.
It is both for owner-occupation as well as for asset enhancement.
It is of very good quality, catering to various income levels up to the upper middle class households with a monthly income of between S$10-S$12k who are eligible for executive condos regulated by public housing restrictions - as they are subsidised through grants and cheaper land -but developed by the private sector.
Households who earn more than S$12k are not eligible to buy new subsidised public apartments direct from the government, but must do so in the secondary market [flats which are more than 5 years old], which comes at a premium, or they can buy private condos.
There is most definitely far more imagination and variety in the Lion City's property market than the one dominated by the tycoons in HK.
Everything you said here is factual. What are the main reasons?
Singaporeans don't scapegoat their government or the lack of free-for-all elections for their own personal failures. We blame everything on the CCP and Beijing government, which doesn't even tax us, nor does it control our monetary and fiscal policies.
This blame game costs us plenty and paralyzes our decision makers. Scholarism brats talk a mile a minute about politics but show little mastery of binomial theorem or the facility to quote Shakespeare or basic skills of any sort.
Will they wake up and develop some marketable skills in the next few years? I ardently hope so. Don't hold your breath though.
Heaven forbid if china should do away with luxury good taxes in the mainland!


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