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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