SCMP’s Senior Writer Claims Hong Kong Should Not Compare Itself to Singapore

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In an opinion piece for the South China Morning Post, senior writer Peter Kammerer tells readers to stop comparing Hong Kong and Singapore, since the two countries have such considerable differences that any comparisons are basically pointless.

Mr. Kammerer makes several points in his opinion piece. He begins by saying that there is a one-sided rivalry between Hong Kong and Singapore, with Singaporeans perceiving that their city is superior, and Hongkongers being jealous of Singapore. He then states his obvious preference for Hong Kong, despite admitting that the last time he was in Singapore was in 1987. He writes, “Whatever the case, there’s no reason whatsoever for having an inferiority complex. Hands down, Hong Kong is the place to be.”

Mr. Kammerer had gone to Singapore for an interview for a job that he later turned down, for reasons then that he wasn’t sure of, just that “something didn’t feel quite right.” The following year, after having accepted another job in Hong Kong, he had an epiphany about that “something.” For him, Singapore is “overplanned,” as opposed to the disorderly chaos and mess that greeted him in the streets outside his Causeway Bay hotel.

As it turns out, Mr. Kammerer loved the chaos of Hong Kong.

In the years that followed, he has only fallen deeper in love with Hong Kong’s patchwork messiness, writing, “There’s a certain charm in the procrastination, a sense that even though with our trillions in reserves, we can have whatever we want, but delivering it is such an effort that we’d rather not. Shining through is creativity, shown through artistic endeavour and innovative ways to get around problems.” For him, Hong Kong’s creativity and innovation are the very things that make it special.

Mr. Kammerer further makes the point that Hongkongers should not look to Singapore for answers for its problems, despite Beijing holding up Singapore as “the Chinese government’s model, both for its benign dictatorship and the way it’s run.” For the writer, Hongkongers are just as able to come up with original solutions, and do not need to copy examples from Singapore, despite headlines that often read how government officials point out how Hong Kong should learn from Singapore concerning various issues.

Finally, the author points out that Singapore does not have added pressure from Beijing over the “one country, two systems” model. They have therefore more freedom for the government to enact policy that will further their interests, but as, Mr. Kammerer says, “That doesn’t mean Hong Kong is better or worse – its circumstances are so different that comparison is wrong.”

As expected, there were commenters who both agreed and disagreed with the writer.

Perspectives from a former senior investment banker:
You must first start with a comparison of the people of HK v. SIN. Lee Kuan Yew always bemoaned the lack of talent in the Lion City. The best and brightest tend to join the government, where your future is relatively secure. Moreover, SIN has restrictions against migration and want to keep top jobs for their citizens only. In HK, you don’t have any shortage of talent, and frankly the continual influx of mainlanders probably refreshes the talent pool continually.
That’s probably why HK is so much better in terms of business than SIN. Particularly, the financial services industry in HK remains seriously vibrant, whereas SIN is weak, an irrelevant bourse not all that differentiated from other small ASEAN financial centres (KL, Jakarta, Bangkok, etc.).
One more note on people: SIN are world famous for bragging about themselves and complaining simultaneously. Yet they’re quite timid about making a change and would rather grouse than leave SIN. I generaly found HK’ers more optimistic and less petty about things.
As for the safety net provided by the People’s Action Party of SIN, that is probably better, and yes the air is cleaner except when the neighbors are clearing fields for agriculture.
But give me HK any day. I like the people a lot more because they’re just a whole lot more interesting, intelligent and fun.”
If anything HK should be streets ahead of Singapore in every way ! Why ? It has the world number two and certainly in time to come, the world number one economy right behind its door steps! The fact that what should have been a given and a hands down battle is not happening should be hard food for thoughts ! Instead this writer languishes in this waywardness and suggests it to be charming ! For us little people who have to face ever increasing rent and impossible Home prizes there is no room for such romanticism- we are envious to death about the public housing that Singaporean enjoys ! To us this single original privilege is good enough to KO Hk !”
Since 1997, Singapore had exceeded HK in every single aspects – its GDP is much higher than HK despite a much smaller population. We can see the quality of people that have been arriving HK since 1997.”
Other said that the author had no right to compare the two, since it had been a long time since he had been in Singapore
OMG trying to compare Singapore and HK with a memory some thirty years back. Is he writing a history documentary. What a typical armchair critic who sits on his butt all days writing about places he had not visited for years and pretends he know the places well. Please give us a break.”