Asia’s two main financial hubs, Hong Kong and Singapore have established different ways of handling the pandemic, growing ever wider. One is opening up for global travels, and the other is still maintaining the world’s harshest quarantine policies.
In Singapore, the officials take measures to reconnect with the global economy, although the government is facing pressure to favor the locals over foreigners for well-paying jobs.
In a television interview, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore could not stay locked down indefinitely, and the residents should prepare to see a surge in the Covid-19 cases for some time.
The divide between Asia’s two main financial hubs in handling the pandemic is growing ever wider, with one opening up to global travel and the other maintaining one of the world’s harshest quarantine policies. https://t.co/kaDIVlS54F
— The Japan Times (@japantimes) October 12, 2021
However, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has taken quite the opposite approach. In a Bloomberg Television interview on Monday, October 11, 2021, he said that even a single death is a significant concern. While expressing her concerns about the city’s reputation, Lam said she was duty-bound to protect her people.
Lam and some other Hong Kong officials say that the policies are popular with the public and have efficiently suppressed the virus.
However, the travel policies are adding to concerns for businesses in Hong Kong, which were already facing a clampdown on free speech by China. The questions about the independence of the judiciary and an education system are now focused on patriotism.
Hong Kong saw over a record outflow of 89,200 residents in the year that ended in June. In contrast, the latest government survey showed that the number of U.S.-based firms in the city fell for a third straight year to 1,267.
On the other hand, Singapore has toughened up its immigration policies and increased the scrutiny of banks, fund managers, management consultancies.
In August, Prime Minister Lee pledged to tighten its restrictions on foreign workers and raise wages for low-income laborers as the city-state recovers from a pandemic. Singapore has also seen its population drop due to an exodus of foreign workers, students, and residents amid tight COVID-19 controls.
Business in Hong Kong
This divergence is raising questions about Hong Kong’s future as a regional hub. This is particularly among an ex-pat business community that has bounced back-and-forth between the former British colonization, known for low tax rates, friendly labor laws, and easy immigration policies.
Still, in Hong Kong, the business community is worried. Even the fully vaccinated residents in Hong Kong face a mandatory 21-day hotel stay if they visit locations like the U.S. and U.K. In contrast, Singapore is starting to allow quarantine-free travel to those places and many others.