Singapore—In an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), strategic analyst Peter G. de Krassel argues that despite the ongoing protests, recession and Covid-19 crisis in Hong Kong, the city is still a better alternative to Singapore.
Months before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong was racked with political turmoil, with unprecedented and prolonged protests driving the economy into a steep downturn. Covid-19 only worsened the situation, leading some firms and individuals to wonder if it is time to set up shop elsewhere.
However, while Singapore may present itself as a viable alternative, Mr de Krassel points out that now may be the right time for “Hong Kong policymakers to do what is needed to shore up public confidence in ‘Asia’s World City’” and take action in the only area where Singapore has a real advantage, which is real estate.
The analyst argues that in every other aspect Singapore is in “no better” condition, and when it comes to winning against the coronavirus, is, in fact, “far behind Hong Kong.” The Lion City has, to date, over 31,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 23 deaths. Hong Kong has had only 1,060 cases and four deaths.
Hong Kong’s advantages over Singapore
On a political level, while Singapore is independent, Mr de Krassel writes that it “like China, is effectively a one-party state,” depicting the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) as an unbeatable juggernaut that even the Progress Singapore Party, which has the support of Lee Kuan Yew’s younger son, “hopelessly challenging it.”
PAP has the right to call for elections at will when “the party is certain of overwhelming re-election,” whereas in Hong Kong “elections for chief executive, legislators and district councillors are held regularly on set dates.”
Another point Mr de Krassel makes is that the people of Hong Kong have made it a habit to fight for their civic rights and demand accountability from their leaders, unlike in Singapore.
As for economics, Singapore has suffered greater losses from the trade tensions between the United States and China than Hong Kong has, due to the nature of its trade-reliant economy. Hong Kong, on the other hand, “is gradually being integrated into the Greater Bay Area, an economic region that will also include Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan and Macau, offering everyone in Hong Kong a larger and brighter horizon.”
With regards to housing, the one area where Singapore enjoys an advantage over Hong Kong, the analyst writes that part of the discontentment of the young in Hong Kong is due to their inability to be able to pay for comfortable homes. While in Singapore, apartments are purpose-built for families, Mr de Krassel mentions that in Hong Kong, the average living space of each resident is 170 sq ft, which is just a little bit larger than a parking spot.
But this issue, he believes, is eminently solvable, suggesting that the Government step in and wrest the hold real estate tycoons have over public housing.
“Hong Kong, like Singapore, must formulate a housing programme to get roofs over the heads of the middle class, and let the rich seeking luxury accommodation or dabbling in speculation be exposed to the vagaries of the open market. Turning an estimated 720 hectares of unused brownfield into public housing is a good starting point.”
He believes that this would tip the scales even further in the discussion as to whether a move to Singapore would be advantageous to Hongkongers and expats at this point. In fact, he argued, things may even take a turnaround, with Singaporeans and expats discussing relocation to Hong Kong. —/TISG
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