Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
The doom merchants are at it again. Apparently, Hong Kong is about to fall off a cliff. Surveys of questionable value get summoned up to support this apocalyptic view. Such claims are now almost a weekly event. Most conflate doubtful opinions with so-called facts. It’s all rather easy to dismiss. Even a cursory exploration throws these surveys into doubt.
This week we had the United Nations allied with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Their global survey of competitiveness covering 1,007 cities, threw up some surprising findings.
If it's believed, Shenzhen is more advanced than Hong Kong, Seoul and Boston. A rather odd result. With competitiveness tied to online activity, the survey falters. Internet access is not always possible in Shenzhen, with WhatsApp and Facebook blocked. Business activities deemed routine elsewhere are a struggle with significant impact. Connectivity both through the internet and land border is pivotal to commercial activity. The survey side-steps the issue. And there is the rub.
New York ranks first. As anyone who has visited knows, this is a bizarre result. Its infrastructure is shoddy and crumbling. Poorly maintained roads, a nightmare underground, and airports akin to the third world. Then you've got crime levels. Most respectable surveys on livability factor crime into the equation.
Education standards alone mean any US city deserves a lower rating. Meanwhile, Hong Kong scores amongst the highest for education. In maths, the US sits at the bottom of the league. Thus, in short, massive holes exists, big enough to drive through my opinions.
This week the World Bank got involved. Its report of the most accessible places to do business slipped Hong Kong from fourth to fifth place. Hong Kong’s drop is because the bureaucrats at the World Bank don’t like our insolvency arrangements. In Hong Kong, a single creditor can seek to wind up a company to secure his money.
The World Bank favours protecting enterprises, even failing ones. This is more important than the rights of investors. The World Bank has an agenda that may not tally with Hong Kong’s best interests. Thus, it is dispiriting to see our officials pandering to their whims by promising a review.
The old perennial is comparing Hong Kong with Singapore. We got more of that this week. Singapore airport launched its new Terminal Four. The media had a spasm of differentiation, citing the high-tech checks-in as a threat to our airport. Hong Kong will fade in its importance is the inference.
Ignored is the fact that Hong Kong remains the most profitable airport in the world. Meanwhile, Hong Kong handles over 70 million passengers a year. Singapore has 58 million. The cargo figures tell another story. Singapore processes 1.9 million tons, whereas Hong Kong pushes through 4.5 million tons.
Poised for more growth, Hong Kong has a third runway on the way. As the premier airport in the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong has a customer base of 120,000 million people. Singapore can’t match that. Geography is a factor.
Both airports enjoy transit passengers flying the Europe-Australasia route. The range of planes means stopovers are necessary. As ranges extend, this business will fade. As a result, Singapore stands to lose a more significant part of its passenger. Its throughput relies more on that sector. This possibility gets ignored in the headlines.
Always exercise caution when viewing these surveys. Comparisons didn't hold up, especially when apples and compared with oranges. The media is somewhat at fault. Headline writers excel at exploiting minor changes in position to manufacture a crisis. Careful analysis, allied to reasoned long-term thought, produces a more astute outcome. That's something lost in our sound bite driven, headline-grabbing age.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.