Singapore gains at Hong Kong’s instability? Zhun bo?

Some say Singapore will get to profit from Hong Kong’s instability because both cities are similar. There are indeed some similarities— both are small in terms of size (though HK is still bigger), were British colonies, once part of the Four Asian Tigers, and our economies as a trading port and financial hub make us similar.

Same same but different

But we are also VERY DIFFERENT.

 

  1. Sovereignty

China resumed its sovereignty over Hong Kong since the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China under the “One Country Two Systems”, where the former can retain their established system with high degree of autonomy for 50 years.

But Singapore is a sovereign country. We became an independent nation since 1965. We have no one to rely on except ourselves. Unlike Hong Kong, we don’t have backing from a big brother like Hong Kong has China.

 

  1. Societal differences

Strong anti-mainland sentiments had arose during the Hong Kong protest this time round. The protesters sang the US National Anthem, waved the British flag and threw the China flag into the sea. And then there were those that were pro-China. Hong Kong’s society is divided and fragmented.

Singaporeans may have differing in views for different issues. But end of the day, we are still “One People, One Nation, One Singapore”.

 

  1. Politics

Before 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony governed under a roughly modeled Westminster system. After the handover in 1997, it became an SAR under the One Country Two Systems. So apart from foreign affairs and defence, which are considered the responsibilities of the PRC government, the SAR is acquainted with high degree of autonomy in all other matters. The SAR is lead by the Chief Executive (CE), who is elected by the Election Committee and is appointed by the PRC government.

On the other hand, Singaporeans vote for the people who formed the government every five years at the General Election. Not happy? The people can choose to vote the government out.

 

A tale of two cities?

The Hong Kong protest that arose from the anti-extradition bill has been ongoing for three months. The people are no longer unhappy only over the extradition bill, but on various issues —housing, jobs, aspirations and politics, which are complicated and not easy to resolve overnight. While not perfect, we cannot deny that there are policies in place to ensure that the Singapore population’s needs for education, housing and economy are met. Singapore’s law does not allow land ownership to be concentrated in the hands of a few. Unlike Hong Kong, we do not use land sales proceeds to fund our current budget, which could inflate land sales proceeds at the expense of home buyers.

Maybe Singaporeans complain a lot about how “everything is not enough”. But at least we have a stable state of governance. The least we can is to not take this political peace and stability for granted. Not to say Singapore is free from the world’s problems, but at least that’s one less problem to deal with right?

And don’t think Singapore will benefit from another country’s instability lahhh. Singapore also has investments in Hong Kong, and unstable developments in Hong Kong will not benefit Singapore in the long run. The longer the protests drags, the more it hurts Hong Kong’s economy and investors’ confidence in the city. Manpower costs in Singapore is not cheap enough for firms to move to Singapore in the short term over temporary instability in Hong Kong. The latter still has its potential as the conduit to the China market and geographical location still matters.

 

Are we always safe?

Singapore is a small, open economy. We are not immune to the impacts of the US-China trade tensions and geopolitical uncertainties brought forth by the weakening global electronics demand and a possible “no-deal” Brexit.

Can we afford to rest on our laurels? Think we die die have to stay alert lah, but not overly pessimistic because we are in a good position to deal with the challenges—our investment pipelines are strong, we have physical and digital infrastructures, and our labour market remains highly skilled and resilient. In the longer term, our markets need to diversify and businesses need to innovate with new technology. If you don’t want to be left out, then better upgrade your skills. #skillsfuture

And of course must stay united else others will just ride over us. #OnepeopleonenationoneSINGAPORE

So nope, we are not gloating at all about Hong Kong’s predicament. In fact, we should be hoping that the situation in Hong Kong diffuse sooner rather than, so there is one less headache to think about on top all the other s**t that is happening out there in the world.