• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 11:40pm

Progressive policies allow Singapore to surpass Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 April, 2014, 5:33am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 April, 2014, 6:03am

Our competitiveness and our quality of life have been surpassed by those of the Lion City.

The Singaporean government, since Lee Kuan Yew's time, has implemented populist, but practical, policies. Intervention and control were vital to ensure the People's Action Party retained power, by first providing livelihood imperatives to the masses, ensuring stability and prosperity. Singapore's redistributive measures include affordable home ownership, where property is sold at a price minus its land cost; affordable and good education and health-care systems; and an excellent Central Provident Fund (CPF) retirement scheme.

We adopt an obtuse, non-interventionist policy, as doing more is termed "welfarism" and dependence.

Big business and tycoons uphold free markets and low taxes, making their fortunes by rent seeking. The crony-capitalism index in The Economist magazine recently rated Hong Kong as number one in crony capitalism.

China's state-controlled capitalism has done better, transforming its middle class into a consumer society. Our competitiveness is due largely to low and stagnant wages, long working hours and an artificially undervalued Hong Kong dollar, which reduces wage earners' purchasing power and savings. Another factor is the lack of taxation; even Singapore and China have a goods and services tax and value added tax respectively.

Our productivity gains are reflected in increased asset prices and not currency appreciation.

Singaporeans' CPF accounts benefit through owning commercial property here. They benefit from our retail tourism without suffering the social costs and overcrowding felt here; while many Hongkongers can't even afford their own home or to retire with the Mandatory Provident Fund.

Free markets allow tycoons to own supermarkets and pharmacies and electricity, telecommunications, shipping and property development companies, creating a business fortress that is impenetrable to competition.

Singapore has surpassed Hong Kong to the extent that it now has the luxury of trading off competitiveness to promote equality. This comes through income supplementation schemes, increasing employer CPF contributions and a more progressive taxation system.

Our politicians squabble over democracy and free speech instead of improving society's well-being. Will they do better for us in a democracy?

Not all democracies flourish, especially in Asia; just take a look around.

Bernard E. S. Lee, Tsuen Wan


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This article is now closed to comments

Yes indeed and our leaders keep making official visits to Singapore but apparently learn nothing.
The true reason for the alleged higher quality of Singapore is its political independence and them being fully in charge and responsible for the outcome and result of their decisions. This independence leaves them with no one to blame, except themselves! Here in Hong Kong we have government officials who are controlled and influenced by Beijing and an increasing interference of Beijing into internal affairs, resulting into a "blaming others" and "finding excuses" culture.
If Singapore wants to stay stable and relatively peaceful, their Government has to make sure that the citizens feel the benefits and increasing livelihood. The Singaporean government in doing the same what the Mainland Government is doing: creating the hard impression of increasing wealth to its citizens, while the HK Government is just a China Muppets Show.
like the imported worker bus drivers who went on strike & were then imprisoned for causing the strike, the ex head of Singapore pilots union who was not a Singaporean who had his visas withdrawn for threatening a strike, imaging having a Backchat like program on Singapore airwaves lambasting Govt officials, lah
Singapore has been crowned as the Switzerland of Asia. Why hongkong did not become Switzerland of Asia but Singapore did?
The housing, retirement funds and standard of living is clearly better and higher in Singapore than in hongkong - look at how safe Singapore tap water is and is drinkable. Singapore public housing are many times bigger, more classy and more posh than those in hongkong. Most importantly, Singaporeans can afford their homes and cars but hongkong fail to do so. 1 in 7 Singaporeans household are millionaires by USD but hongkong isn't. Also, Singaporeans line up and queue when waiting for MRTs but hongkongers don't. Singapore has already host 5 years of F1 night race but hongkong has yet to do so. Europeans said Singapore students are the best problem solvers in the world but hongkong is not. If you ask me to choose between Singapore airlines and Cathay Pacific - I will definitely choose Singapore airlines - the girls are prettier, sexier, more intelligent, speak great English and of all Singapore airlines in-flight entertainment is bravo. No wonder hongkong did not become Switzerland of Asia. Time will tell. A nanny state that delivers is better than a china-puppet state that only talks
When I see some of my friends struggling just to get by paying their mortgages and living in a cramped 700sqft flat, with a maid, stinging every dollar to put their children into a good school, and when I read of the less fortunate who's children live in subdivided flats - I start to wonder what democracy will do for these people too; perhaps just like the author here - in his last paragraph.
It's true Singapore was ruled by an autocratic leader or system; but it delivered.
Their ministers are paid millions - that's why they don't get a FS -John Tsang.
I rather a strict nanny state that delivers.
Gunzy, If CY Leung's wife was the CEO of say a HK sovereign wealth fund- and our pension funds benefits , I won't have a problem with this type of cronyism. The problem arises when we have independent providers and free competition but we produce this useless thing called -HK- MPF. Where it under performs and is insufficient. I rather the state invest for us but delivers.
Yingnam Fong
I don't know if it is true that the running water in Singapore is drinkable or not. But I know that the Singaporeans will be in panic if there is a quarrel between Singapore and Malaysia, where the latter may choose to punish the former by turning off the tap! In regard to the housing, the low cost housing in Hong Kong offers the tenants a life long low rent without burdening them with a mortgage requiring a lengthy high monthly repayment for years! It is no secret that Singapore government limits the numbers of cars by imposing a high tax for the purchase and road fee for some designated districts during busy hours! Hong Kongers need no queuing for the MTR travelling for the commuter's high efficiency. I think the number of travellers using the MTR is much higher than the MTR in Singapore. The figures can tell! I believe that Singaporean are not the born inventors. They actually love to copy ideas from other countries like Australia! Cathay Pacific is said to be better than Singapore Airline vide ****centreforaviation.com/analysis/singapore-airlines-is-falling-behind-cathay-pacific-as-asias-network-airline-giants-diverge-125074! In regard to economic performance, Hong Kong at US$24,000 per capita still outranks Singapore at US$21,000. Don't forget that Hong Kong has a population of 7m while Singapore 3m plus!
With all those strikes and instability Singapore will not be what it is today. Imagine with real democracy, having some of our Pan democrats elected into government - what a mess HK will be. This is exactly what LKY feared- having an inferior government with incapable people; we have loads of these in Legco and Excos. But will find non in the Singaporean government; LKY would purge incompetent ones. The rich tycoons will influence policies that favor the rich more, the grass-roots could end up being worst of. Singapore pays it's ministers HKD millions a month ; but they deliver.
In HK we have Li Ka Shing style monopoly and hegemony-He keeps the wealth to himself and throws in some breadcrumbs to charity to appease the masses. In Singapore , the state controls most big companies such as SQ , Capital Land but redistributes it back to it's people in the form of CPF.
The only thing we have better here is we can holler louder for democracy and with our freedom of expression, that still is free. After that the majority will go back to their 600sqft cubicles.
Have you been to Singapore before?
I can assure you the running water in Singapore is perfectly safe to drink, as in most modern cities. Also Singapore's population is 5.5 million, not 3m plus.
Don't know why you say Singaporeans love to copy ideas from other countries like Australia. Care to share some examples?



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