By Uncle Cheng
Here are a few comparisons with Hong Kong that struck me during my recent stay in the lion city. Of course, as we all know Hong Kong compares very badly with Singapore on three important quality-of-life points — cleanliness, air pollution and preservation of heritage buildings. But what struck me quickly this time is that Singapore’s economic rebound and currency appreciation are having a big effect on Singaporean living standards. Certainly the gap with Johor Bahru (in Malaysia) is widening, and I suspect that Singapore is pulling ahead of Hong Kong on many economic fronts.
On the question of air pollution I should add a small caveat to correct the common misconception that Singapore air is totally pure. In fact, like Malaysia, Singapore does suffer from seasonal smoke haze which the wind blows from Indonesian forest fires. But subtract the Indonesian haze and Singapore’s own air is remarkably pollution-free — unlike Hong Kong shamingly putrid air.
Believe it or not but Singapore traffic moves freely and is not gridlocked like Hong Kong’s. This is partly because Singapore pioneered many years ago an electronic pricing system to reduce traffic congestion. By comparison, the Hong Kong government’s only solution to traffic congestion seems to be to build more roads, which as we all know immediately turn into more traffic jams.
When it comes to preservation of heritage buildings the comparisons between Singapore and Hong Kong leave us totally shamed and humiliated. Through very strict laws including compulsory purchase, Singapore has preserved and renovated not just isolated historic buildings but entire streets and city blocks. The result is that the historic buildings have become a magnet for small businesses, bars, and restaurants.
While our Financial Secretary recently declared that the idea of a sales tax had been abandoned, Singapore proceeded to announce that its sales tax would be increased from 5 percent to 7 percent. I fear that Hong Kong has made a mistake. Of course, any new tax is going to be unpopular but Hong Kong urgently needs to widen its tax base. Otherwise we will be forever trapped by the colonial high land price policy on which the government relies for much of its revenue.
Singapore is also aiming to make itself more attractive to business with its plans to reduce its corporation tax, now at 20 percent compared to Hong Kong’s 17 percent, to 19 percent.
If it is any consolation there are at least two areas where Hong Kong beats Singapore hands down — one of which is fireworks. The New Year fireworks in Singapore were very low key and brief compared to the mega-spectacular that Hong Kong delivers. Perhaps the ever-careful Singapore government does not like its money to go up in smoke!
The other is even more difficult to quantify – Singapore is still a boring place.
Sophie: Must ask Uncle Cheng to come to Singapore more often and show him the more happening places as indicated in this report last year! :-)
8 November 2006
Surprise! S’pore is No. 2 for nightlife and dining
In any case, Singapore is “hot”, say more than 1,500 frequent travellers and travel experts who ranked it No.2 for nightlife and dining in a global brand study.
The Global Country Brand Index was compiled by brand consultancy FutureBrand and public relations firm Weber Shandwick.
Singapore did not even make it to the top 10 last year in this category. The finding stunned nightspot operators.