EXCUSE ME A moment. We seem to have some people from the Economist Intelligence Unit asleep at the wheel here and I need to put in a wake-up call. Hallo-oh, knock-knock, yoo-hoo, anyone at home or does that echo I hear say something about the space between the ears? Listen, folks, I have nothing against you citing some of Hong Kong's shortcomings and I laugh, as I am sure you do, when Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung says your criticism of Hong Kong's ministerial system is 'ironic' because you are based in Britain and Britain has ministers too. The man comes up a little short in his understanding of parliamentary democracy, doesn't he? Likewise, if you wish to hold it against us that our fiscal deficit is too big and concrete proposals for reducing it too little, well I have said much the same on occasion. And yes, Hong Kong faces some big questions on how it will fit into China's economy in the future. But did you not also say Singapore has now supplanted Hong Kong as having the best business environment in Asia? Really? Wakee-wakee, grab your socks, it's morning. Let us take just some of the reasons you cite for giving Hong Kong a lower score and put them in the context of Singapore. An erosion of political autonomy from the mainland. What erosion? Falun Gong demonstrates on the streets here, dissidents say what they will about Beijing with this newspaper offering them a frequent forum and the only retribution I get for being nasty to Antony Leung is that he does not invite me to lunch. Just try all that in Singapore. Do you know the joke about how Dr Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew go fishing one day in the straits of Johore? First they try the nice clean Singapore waters. Nary a nibble. Then they try the murky Malaysian side. Fish by the basket. 'I don't understand it,' says His Pre-Eminence from Singapore. 'No?' says Dr M. 'It's simple. In Singapore even the fish don't dare open their mouths.' No, we do not have independence from Beijing. We were never promised it. But we do have a high degree of autonomy as promised, more than the average Singaporean has in his everyday life from his own Government. Continually worsening economic conditions. Drrriiinggg! Rise and shine. Call yourself an Economist intelligence unit? Have any of you people looked at Singapore's economic record recently? The word you are looking for is 'dismal'. Look it up and then load up some hard data into your spreadsheets. Concerns about cartels and favouritism. Yes, we have a difficulty. Hong Kong's economy is built on private-sector corporations and this undoubtedly leaves us open to cronyism from time to time in awards of government contracts. It is a danger any market economy carries. We are not always as white as driven snow. And Singapore certainly faces no similar danger. It has come closer than any other country to achieving communism in the classic Marxist sense. You cannot have much private-sector cronyism when there is not much of a truly independent private sector to begin with. How can a cartel be accused of cronyism with itself? Yes, we shall have to grant this one to Singapore. Lack of skills among workers. They certainly have plenty of skills in Singapore, manufacturing technicians by the bucket load. Too bad that their employers are deserting them for China and that the only other big skill set is bureaucracy. Give me that where-can-we-make-a-buck skill set of the nimble Hong Kong trader any day. Singapore No 1 spot in Asia for business environment, was it? Oh, my Lord, where have you people been?