Why do Hongkongers rate Singapore’s government higher than theirs? The answer may lie in one word: housing

2886
Photo: YouTube screengrab
 

A poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong asking respondents to rate the administration of different countries resulted in Singapore coming out in the number one spot. 

Although the specifics of the poll have not been released to the public, it is highly likely that the reason why Singapore got such high marks is because of the perception that Singapore’s government employs a public housing policy that is better for people.

That being said, many are uncomfortable with comparing Hong Kong with Singapore due to the differences between the two places, including the freedoms that Hongkoners enjoy, in comparison to Singapore’s more restrictive atmosphere. 

However, Hongkongers seem to have grown jealous of the higher standard of living in Singapore. Hong Kong’s leaders have long praised Singapore’s governance, including solving housing issues, and have sought to learn from Singapore’s example.

This has led to pressuring Hong Kong’s government to endeavor to solve housing issues quickly, with sometimes mixed results. Case in point is property market sales that have fetched increasingly higher prices, the latest one being a 592 square foot apartment that was sold for over HK $10 million (S $1.75 million).

These inflated prices have led to calls for stricter laws on reselling subsidized houses, due to the fact that the subsidies taken from taxes were originally intended to help lower income families obtain affordable housing, and not help them make a lot of money when they re-sell the property on the open market. 

Hong Kong’s government has said it is considering stricter laws for such cases, even as the current administration struggles to curb runaway prices in the property market, like every other previous administration did in the past.

An object lesson can be ounce form the life of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, former second Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Mr. Tsang was sent back to prison last week for misconduct in public office. 

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, New People’s Party chairwoman and lawmaker, recently wrote on Facebook about an encounter with Mr. Tsang, whom she considered as a big brother. She recounted a dinner at the Government House in 2010 with him, wherein Mr. Tsang talked about how hard it was to buy a house after he retired. When she asked him if he already owned a house, the look he gave her let her know he was wanting a larger place.

In her post Ms. Ip said that it was good for officials to be prepared to return to ordinary life after their years of public service, since even people in high positions such as Mr. Tsang could ill afford a spacious home upon retirement.

Unfortunately, it may have been his desire for a larger dwelling that got the better of him. Intending to rent a penthouse located in Shenzhen that was owned by Bill Wong Cho-bau, a businessman from mainland China, Mr. Tsang got into trouble for approving license applications from Wave Media, a radio station where Mr. Wong was a majority shareholder. 

Had better public housing been easier to obtain in Hong Kong, just like it is in Singapore, the former Chief Executive might still be free today.