HK and Singapore – there are many similarities between the 2 countries – both are international financial centers, well-run countries with first world facilities and its citizens are generally competent and productive. But when it comes to type of governance, it is at opposite sides of the spectrum – one is a socialist, while the other is capitalist. Having lived in HK for the last couple of years, I have seen first-hand how the weak remain weak and are exploited because they have no voice, no bargaining power and have to accept the status quo.
The question is, does the government have a duty to take care of its citizens? If yes, that would be a socialist government which is at odds with HK’s pride in being the freest economy in the world. In a free economy, demand would be met with supply and the market price is determined by this equation. In an ideal free market economy market equilibrium will happen, where equal amount of demand is met with equal amount of supply at a price that is acceptable to both sides. However in reality, this rarely happens. Instead the market is either short / over supplied, which tips the price either way. In HK, supply (of unskilled labour) exceeds demand, so that (i) menial jobs are filled by locals and (ii) the workers accept the low wage, only because they have few alternatives.
HK gives welfare to certain sections of the society, generally the hardcore poor and the infirmed. However the welfare payout is very little, largely to ‘force’ the beneficiaries to be self-sufficient instead of being aid-reliant. Thus even those on welfare need to find means to supplement this income or it would be very difficult to live decently. Old women pushing trolleys laden with cardboards are a common sight in most parts of HK. When I first arrived in HK, it saddened me to see these old women doing hard labour and it made me wonder – where is their family?.
In my eyes, society and government have failed these senior citizens who have given the best part of their lives to the development of HK and now in their old age, they seem to have been forgotten / ignored.
By comparison, Singapore’s government is socialist by objective. It seeks to take care of the needs of its citizens. The carefully planned and executed policies have raised the standard of living and created townships that are so similar that it could well have been replicated from the first successful HDB development. Government control over almost every facet of its citizens life has stifled creativity and innovation. There are comments of Singapore lacking character…. tourist are impressed by the modern structures, clean and safe environment and sadly, not much else. HK on the other hand has lots of character and its citizens are vocal (sometimes too loud), innovative and survivors.
Both regimes have its flaws and benefits, though i lean more towards a socialist governance where society and government help the weak. This can be done without being Robin Hood, i.e. robbing the rich to pay the poor. Too idealistic? Maybe but I am hopeful that over time, both countries will tweek with their governance to arrive at a sort of equilibrium.