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Singapore

Singapore rivalry should not make Hong Kong averse to copying its models for success

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2018, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2018, 9:01pm

It's abnormal that a city state with a median household income of around S$9,000 (US$6,742), about 50 per cent higher than Hong Kong’s in 2016, can register a level of private consumption as a percentage of gross domestic product that falls way short of its peer.

According to Philip Bowring, this is due to the many “low-wage workers” who “operate factories and clean toilets” in the city state (“Hong Kong’s future lies beyond the Greater Bay Area”, June 9).

A more accurate reason for the above anomaly, however, lies in Singapore’s higher savings rate, thanks largely to the Central Provident Fund forced savings scheme, which absorbs up to 37 per cent of a worker’s monthly income.

Housing is also more affordable in the Lion City, giving its residents greater flexibility in allocating savings to investments, including home ownership. This is instead of wasteful consumption on big-ticket items that merely feeds into Hong Kong's self-fulfilling prophecy of mass consumerism and rentier capitalism, which continue to marginalise those without property and land.

Why is the Hong Kong government’s MPF offsetting plan so controversial?

These facts are often glossed over by commentators such as Bowring, to project Hong Kong as the more successful economy. His view of manufacturing as comprising factories brimming with low-skilled low-wage workers is sadly archaic.

Must dysfunctional, declining Hong Kong now look to Guiyang as a role model?

He should try acquainting himself with the advanced manufacturing centres of excellence across the world, including Singapore, to refresh his bias.

Whether Hong Kong remains a services-centric hub for China and East Asia, or re-embraces manufacturing as part of its developmental system like Singapore continues to do since independence, is really for its residents to mull over and discuss.

But the least that its intelligentsia can try to do is be open-minded and honest about the possibilities, instead of selecting facts that varnish their long-held prejudice.

John Chan, Singapore