Don’t believe everything you read in surveys

From Hong Kong’s competitiveness to housing affordability, we are awash in self-important surveys that tell us nothing new

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2016, 1:11am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2016, 2:49am

Hong Kong’s ranking for the competitiveness of its economy has slid two notches in a global survey by the World Economic Forum, as it struggles to migrate from being a global financial centre to an innovation led economy.

SCMP, Sept. 29


As drowning humans clutch at straws, so think tanks desperate for the publicity that is their breath of life reach for country ranking surveys when publicity runs thin. They are gasping now, judging by the number of surveys coming out.

World Economic Forum is a German professor by the name of Klaus Schwab who claims to have invented the free lunch concept of “stakeholder” and who started WEF as an annual talk shop for name droppers in academia and politics.

Every winter they gather for a few days in Davos, Switzerland, to drop their names at each other and then, having been mutually impressed, to issue statements that talk of cautious optimism and resolutions that begin, “Government must...” The prostitutes do a grand business, I’m told. But once a year is not enough and so WEF has also got into the preaching business with a global ranking survey that this year has demoted Hong Kong a few notches because our business community supposedly cites the capacity to innovate as its “biggest concern” and we’re not doing it.

We published this sad lament a day after reporting the results of a local survey showing that two thirds of Hong Kong people plan to be self-employed, and don’t particularly fancy doing it in hi-tech. Hurrah! My total faith in the common sense of Hong Kong has proved itself again. We have one of the most innovative societies in the world and one reason it has been so successful is that it has stayed well away from that money-losing sinkhole of vanity, the digital tech business. All yours, Klaus.

Then we have the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, which I actually think does some very good work but, unfortunately, is too close to several American counterparts that occupy a space on the political spectrum several light years to the right of Attila the Hun.

Hong Kong slips two spots in global competitiveness index, while Singapore still leads Asia-Pacific

Hong Kong, says the Fraser Institute’s latest survey, is once again the most economically free jurisdiction in the world. Thank you, sirs, but I wish you had picked Singapore again because this always makes for such a good laugh. In Singapore we have the first place in the world to have achieved communism in the classic Marxist sense of the word. No other has ever put 85 per cent of its people in public housing. No other can on a whim tell one bank to close and it closes and another to open and it opens, or dictate the industrial structure of the economy. Free? Singapore runs on command.

The only real difference from Hong Kong, however, is that we take our commands from Beijing and Singapore won’t. Other than that we’re pretty much the same, growing rich by money laundering from exploiting the inefficiencies of neighbouring economies. Yes, numbers 1 and 2 on the Fraser Institute Scale of Thievery ... oops .., sorry ..., I mean of Freedom.

Here is another one from Wednesday’s paper – Hong Kong has the least affordable housing among global financial centres, says UBS, a big Swiss moo cow that likes to think of itself as a bank and which non-Swiss regulators think of as target practice.

Based on the UBS survey methodology (it’s an ology, you see, not just a method), a worker earning an average of HK$15,055 a month would need to work more than 18 years to afford a 60 square metre flat near the city centre. Woeful prospect indeed.

I therefore recommend to this worker that he or she remain for the time being in public rental housing, which accounts for about 35 per cent of our housing stock and where the average rent is only about HK$1,250 a month, making it possibly the cheapest formal urban accommodation on earth.

As a bonus, such flats are all located well away from that zone of drunken night-time cavortings, which we call the city centre.