Among the four Asian Tigers, Hong Kong and Singapore are the most alike. However, in recent years, Singapore has leaped ahead. In contrast, Hong Kong, which used to be on a par with Singapore, has seen its model break down. Hong today is a place of ‘weak government, strong society, crazy political parties’; its whole society has lost stability. Hong Kong used to be very competitive and benefit from institutional strengths, but its aura is slowly disappearing, and it is now facing challenges and pressures. Hong Kong needs to look in the mirror held by Singapore, change its clothes, wash its face, and start again.
At the great meeting commemorating the forty eighth anniversary of the Singapore National Day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced to the people the future strategy for the country, a vision running to 2030. Singapore has become a mirror, to let the people of this country understand the future road, and follow the future light of Singapore. At the same time, Singapore is also a mirror to Hong Kong: among the Asian Dragons who rose at the end of the last Century, in recent years, Singapore has been continuously leading, not only becoming the first among the Asian Dragons, but also one of the most developed countries in the world. It is just a small country, but it constantly shows proofs of the advantages of its system and governance, and Hong Kong could learn from the way Singapore has changed.
When walking the streets of Singapore, you can breathe in the slightly damp sea air, almost as if you were in Hong Kong. The city covers a total area of 715 square kilometres, with a population of 5,321,000, of which 3,280,000 are Singaporean citizens, and 530,000 are permanent residents. The size and population are slightly smaller than Hong Kong, but the momentum of development is much stronger. That is because Singapore has a different strength.
The ‘carrot and stick’ approach to new construction.
Singapore is a multi-ethnic nation of migrants. Since its independence in 1965, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, within 40 years of time, Singapore quickly became one of the Asian dragons, and one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Its economic model is known as ‘State capitalism’, and it is renowned for its political stability and its efficient and non-corrupt government. Two years ago, at the Singapore elections, the People’s Action Party lost 6% of the vote – although they still hold 81% of the seats in the Congress, and the balance of power has not been affected. When the result came out, Lee Hsien Loong described this as a ‘watershed’: obviously, the result was experienced as a crisis.
On Singapore National day, Lee Hsien Long announced a series of new ideas and projects to the public. These included a massive expansion of the Changi airport, the construction of a fifth passenger terminal and a fourth runway, with a goal of doubling passenger capacity within twelve years; relocating military bases to free up vast tracts of land for residential and commercial development; 加码津贴中低收入家庭置业; and reforming the healthcare and education system to remain competitive.
Singapore is one of Asia’s financial, services and shipping hotspots. The Global Financial Centres Index ranked Singapore fourth after London, New York and Hong Kong. Even though it is following the international trend of developing modern service products, industrial development is still Singapore’s dominant strength: up until now, concentrating the region’s largest oil refinery centres, chemistry plants, shipbuilding, electronics, machinery and others in the famous Jurong industrial area. But the city’s cleanliness is also impressive: Singapore is a city State, yet also counts as a ‘garden city’. 李显龙的国家建设新构思「软硬兼施」，誓为新加坡锦上添花。It proposes to reserve space for future developments, but also raised the goal of improving the citizens’ life.
The poor status of Hong Kong housing
Housing is the eternal painful spot you don’t dare to touch for people in Hong Kong. Among the four Asian Dragons, Singapore and Hong Kong are the most similar, with about the same amount of land per capita. However, the housing situation in Hong Kong is about twice as bad as it is in Singapore. The available housing per inhabitant in Hong Kong is only about that of Singapore, and the price is about two to three times as much. Singapore has given people housing security, while Hong Kongers are still in distress…
On the basis that over 80% of Singaporeans live in compound flats, Lee Hsien Loong proposed to ensure that low income families can buy their own flat. A family with a monthly income of 1000 Singaporean dollars (6000 Hong Kong dollars) should afford a one bedroom flat, a family with a monthly income of 2000 should afford a two bedroom, and a family with an income of 4000 should afford a three bedroom. To ensure that each family can afford their house, he also proposes to reduce the mortgage duration from the previous 30 years to 25 years. And he proposes to fix the prices of apartments to about 4 years of income. This just forces Hong Kong people to look right in the eye what ‘affordable housing’ would look like.
Hong Kong’s system is losing its competitive advantage
Hong Kong and Singapore are the most alike among the four Asian Tigers. However, these recent years, Singapore has continued to leap and bound, pursuing the model inherited from Lee Kuan Yew, of institutional strength, innovative government, social stability, and strong national cohesion: these were the basic guarantees grounding Singapore’s development. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the original model, similar to Singapore’s, has been broken. Hong Kong’s industrial structure has deficiencies, it has lost industries in its transition, while the services retained their traditional characteristics and did not become modern. Singapore can look ahead to 2030, while Hong Kong’s ‘small government big market’ cannot plan for the long term. Hong Kong is creeping ahead, but it does not have a target. That transitioning Hong Kong can not hold a mirror to its own citizens.
In particular, from a commercial society, Hong Kong has started its transition to a democracy, Legislative Council member Liu Shuye describes Hong Kong as a place with ‘weak government, strong society, and crazy parties’, and the transitioning government has its own weaknesses: with any new measures proposed bearing political labels, the whole society has lost stability. Hong Kong used to be very competitive and have institutional strengths, but its aura is slowly disappearing under the challenges and pressures. Hong Kong needs to look in the mirror held by Singapore, dress up, wash their face, and start again.