“Singapore definitely has a better game plan,” said Fong, who has lived in Hong Kong for four years and does merchandising work at Versace.
Fong is not alone. Hong Kong and Singapore have long competed to become Asia’s major global trade hub, but as the Chinese city’s international borders remain nearly closed, some businesses and expats are losing patience – and turning to the Southeast Asian hub are doing.
no end in sight
But for many in Hong Kong, the grass is still green on the other side of the South China Sea.
Frederick Golob, president of the city’s European Chamber of Commerce, argues that Singapore is gaining an edge over Hong Kong, as he wishes to signal an end to heavy pandemic restrictions, even if progress has stalled.
“Of course it is benefiting,” he told Granthshala Business, referring to Singapore. “It’s happening as we speak.”
Golob said he was aware of “multiple instances” of companies where C-suite executives were considering whether to move certain operations out of Hong Kong, or that were “expiring office leases”. were waiting for.” He declined to name those firms, citing sensitivity concerns.
With Singapore attempting to move forward, “those companies now have a choice, not because they were actively looking for it, but because of the situation.” [in Hong Kong], where everything is in limbo and you can’t plan ahead,” said Golob.
“That moving or non-existent goalposts are really the problem… Businesses hate nothing more than insecurities.”
That uncertainty is weighing heavily on Fong. The Versace employee said she had planned to travel home twice since the start of the pandemic, only to have her trips canceled both times because of changing quarantine restrictions.
“It takes a huge toll,” Fong said. “It could well drag on into 2023.”
The pressure on the Hong Kong government is increasing. In August, Golob wrote a widely circulated open letter to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, calling for the city to “open sooner rather than later”.
“[Otherwise,] This new quarantine regime could lead many in the international community to question whether they want to be stuck in Hong Kong indefinitely while the rest of the world moves on,” he wrote.
Hong Kong last recorded a local COVID infection on August 17, and has reported for weeks on average only a few cases per day from people entering from overseas.
“It has become very clear to us that someone … has to put forward a different perspective on the current situation.”
Some officials have voiced their concerns directly to the government, albeit in private. Recently, the Asia Pacific head of a major European company warned Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau that he would move a large part of his business to Singapore because of the quarantine restrictions, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“It was an attempt to demonstrate to the government that it [is] Not only talking, but things happening,” the person said.
The person declined to share further details, saying he was not authorized to speak on private matters.
The reverse of ‘Zero Kovid’
In an interview with Granthshala Business, Yau said he understood his frustration.
“I don’t want to be seen as necessary — or in a position to make the tough decision to leave any one company,” he said. “But so we maintain [such] Close contact with all foreign circles, persuading them and taking into account their views.”
Yau stressed that there was “no right solution” for governments around the world to try to balance both economic and health concerns. “No one size fits all,” he said. “It’s a double battle we’re fighting.”
Certainly, Hong Kong has had success in dealing with the pandemic.
The city recently marked more than 21 days without local infections, Yau noted, while pointing to Singapore’s recent uptick in coronavirus cases. The city-state has reported an average of 334 new daily cases since the beginning of September.
“Let’s not lose sight of it. It’s hard-earned,” said Yau. “We must maintain this high level of vigilance.”
There have been other bright spots as well. This month, Hong Kong announced it would loosen some border restrictions, allowing travelers from mainland China and Macau to enter the city without quarantine.
The reopening to the mainland has been crucial for businesses that see Hong Kong as a gateway to the vast market there.
In doing so, the government has been “forced to take a very strong approach to suppress the importation of infected cases from abroad so that our COVID-19 situation is acceptable to the authorities in the mainland,” according to Lam’s office.
But for all the outrage among migrants, Yau argues that the local community may not feel the same.
“I don’t think the local community will agree” with similar demands for an end to the quarantine, he said.
Lam’s team pointed to local vaccination rates as “less than satisfactory,” suggesting that this limited its pandemic response options somewhat.
an existing change
Even without the Covid crisis, headhunters were having trouble bringing new talent to Hong Kong, according to Jaya Das, managing director for Singapore and Malaysia at Randstad, a leading recruitment firm.
“I think where I see a change is more on a personal level how people feel emotionally about living in Hong Kong.”
Some business groups have found this to be the case. According to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, “an unprecedented number of migrants” [have been] Have been planning to leave or leave the city in the past few years.”
Das said that in some cases, the quarantine restrictions in Hong Kong have triggered the decision for job seekers to move to Singapore.
“I can’t say it’s based only on that,” she said. “[But] Right now, I think the climate in a pandemic … makes people reevaluate their choices.”
—Carlotta Doto contributed to this report.
Credit : cnn.it