image image

Hong Kong economy

Hong Kong closes gap with Singapore on prosperity index, with institute saying residents enjoy greater level of personal freedom

  • Legatum Institute puts Lion City 21st in world, with Hong Kong just one spot back
  • Norway, New Zealand and Finland top list of 148 economies
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2018, 8:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2018, 11:22am

Hong Kong has closed the gap on Singapore with the city’s residents enjoying greater levels of personal freedom, safety and security this year than before, according to a global index released on Wednesday.

The city’s overall ranking jumped two places to 22nd out of 149 economies, while Singapore slipped four places to 21st, according to a prosperity index compiled by British-based independent charity organisation Legatum Institute.

Hong Kong, India and Bangladesh were among the best improvers in the Asia-Pacific region this year from last year, the index showed.

Since its inception 12 years ago, the index has measured people’s standard of living experience by tracking nine elements – business environment, economic quality, education, health, natural environment, governance, personal freedom, safety and security, and social capital.

“Among the 20 countries that rose the most this year, safety and security was their strongest pillar and conversely, in the 20 countries that fell most, it declined significantly,” said Stephen Brien, director of policy at the Legatum Institute.

“A nation succeeds when its leaders set and protect national priorities, and work with external parties to support and align with a domestic agenda.”

Although Hong Kong and Singapore were not among the 20 countries that rose or fell the most this year, Hong Kong’s score is very close to Singapore’s in this respect. Safety and security covers national security, personal safety and security of living conditions.

The index has ranked Norway, New Zealand and Finland as the world’s top three prosperous economies for the past two years.

Progress in Hong Kong has to be built on loyalty to China

Hong Kong’s score in safety and security improved from 92.2 to 93.3, which just followed the 93.5 Singapore scored, which was down from the 95.7 rating it got a year ago.

When coming to the level of personal freedom, Hong Kong scored higher.

The institute pointed out that personal freedom in the region overall had been lacklustre for some years, which could be because of governments’ desire to maintain political stability to sustain economic growth. Personal freedom includes basic legal rights, individual freedoms and social tolerance on diversity of religions, ethnicities and sexualities.

The institute said Singapore was a good example of how to do this successfully: while the city ranked 98th for personal freedom, it placed 21st in overall prosperity.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore took the top spots for ease of trade in the world, with Singapore No 1 and Hong Kong No 2.

As Hongkongers will tell you, GDP per capita is not a perfect gauge of prosperity

But, in terms of education and health, the Lion City outperformed Hong Kong.

Billy Mak Sui-choi, associate professor of finance and decision sciences at Baptist University, said it made sense, since Hong Kong’s safety and security levels improved as its crime rates hit a record low.

Mak, also a member of Hong Kong government’s business facilitation advisory committee, said the city was improving its ease of trade by completing more procedures electronically.

“This may take some time as increasing the use of electronics in the government involves a change of laws,” he said.