What the CE can take home from Sin­ga­pore

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Soon af­ter Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s visit to Sin­ga­pore, the first for­eign coun­try she vis­ited since be­com­ing Hong Kong’s leader, it was widely an­nounced she will fol­low the city-state’s ex­am­ple and start a Civil Ser­vice Col­lege for Hong Kong. Ad­mirable as that is in in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness of the civil ser­vice, there are a num­ber of other things which, to my mind, Hong Kong can learn from Sin­ga­pore.

The first thing that struck me when I came to Sin­ga­pore was that liv­ing con­di­tions of most fam­i­lies here were much bet­ter than those in Hong Kong. I was also sur­prised to find out that roughly 80 per­cent of the fam­i­lies here own the apart­ments which they live in. This came about be­cause of apart­ment build­ing un­der the Hous­ing and Devel­op­ment Board (HDB). Soon af­ter in­de­pen­dence, the HDB started ac­quir­ing land to build hous­ing for the peo­ple. Sin­ga­pore’s found­ing prime min­is­ter Lee Kuan Yew’s stated phi­los­o­phy was that gov­ern­ment poli­cies should aim to help 80 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion while the top 20 per­cent could al­ways help them­selves. An­other trend of his thought was that peo­ple who owned their own hous­ing were more likely to look af­ter the units; in ad­di­tion, hav­ing a mort­gage to pay would make it less likely they would cre­ate dis­tur­bance in so­ci­ety. The HDB soon started to ac­quire land to build apart­ments which were sold to the peo­ple vir­tu­ally at cost. At times, that in­volved ac­quir­ing land cheaply. Per­son­ally, I know of at least one fam­ily where a size­able chunk of its vast land hold­ing was forcibly sold to the gov­ern­ment, and they de­cided to move to Aus­tralia, and as an aside, now that Sin­ga­pore has be­come such a suc­cess, they re­al­ized that had they just hung on to the piece of land that was not taken away from them at that time, that re­main­ing piece of prop­erty would have been worth much more than what they now have in Aus­tralia!

Can Hong Kong achieve a sim­i­lar goal — hav­ing 80 per­cent of her fam­i­lies be­com­ing home­own­ers? This might re­quire the gov­ern­ment bat­tling the big de­vel­op­ers but I think it’s an es­sen­tial goal to achieve. It will bring about a greater sense of se­cu­rity and be­long­ing to the young peo­ple of Hong Kong. Lam has been say­ing her poli­cies do not ex­clude the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing the gov­ern­ment’s vast fi­nan­cial re­serves in this re­spect. Per­haps some of that money should be used in de­vel­op­ing some­thing sim­i­lar to the HDB of Sin­ga­pore.

Mean­while, English, be­ing the lan­guage of com­merce, science and law, and one of Sin­ga­pore’s four of­fi­cial lan­guages, is now widely used in the schools, in busi­ness, in all the pro­fes­sions and in the courts of the city-state. Should Hong Kong, which has also des­ig­nated English as The au­thor is a con­sul­tant hema­tol­o­gist in Sin­ga­pore, a lec­turer in sev­eral lead­ing med­i­cal schools, a cer­ti­fied se­nior me­di­a­tor and a former se­nior Sin­ga­pore Armed Forces of­fi­cer.

Can Hong Kong achieve a sim­i­lar goal — hav­ing 80 per­cent of her fam­i­lies be­com­ing home­own­ers? This might re­quire the gov­ern­ment bat­tling the big de­vel­op­ers but I think it’s an es­sen­tial goal to achieve.

one of its two of­fi­cial lan­guages, adopt a sim­i­lar pol­icy? The lan­guage known as English is no longer the pre­serve of the Bri­tish Em­pire or of the United States; it has in ef­fect be­come the lin­gua franca of busi­ness and science. If Hong Kong is to main­tain its sta­tus as an in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial cen­ter and con­tinue to be an im­por­tant gate­way to China and not be over taken by Shang­hai, or even Shen­zhen, its peo­ple have to con­tinue to main­tain a high stan­dard of English, which has de­te­ri­o­rated in re­cent years.

A peren­nial prob­lem fac­ing Hong Kong is the short­age of doc­tors in the pub­lic sec­tor. Sin­ga­pore has a sim­i­lar prob­lem but that prob­lem is solved by em­ploy­ing for­eign-trained doc­tors, with­out re­quir­ing them to take any lo­cal med­i­cal ex­ams. Imag­ine se­nior con­sul­tants, say in heart surgery in an ad­vanced coun­try, hav­ing to sit an exam that cov­ers all ar­eas of medicine, ar­eas in which they have no in­ter­est, in order to get a li­cense to prac­tice; is that re­ally nec­es­sary? Can a se­nior con­sul­tant work­ing in Hong Kong pass that same exam now? The way the Sin­ga­pore sys­tem deals with for­eign spe­cial­ists com­ing to prac­tice here is that first, they have to work in a gov­ern­ment-linked hos­pi­tal for a num­ber of years. They might be ap­pointed as con­sul­tants, due to ex­pe­ri­ence in their own coun­tries, but still they have to work for a num­ber of years lo­cally be­fore be­ing given a full li­cense. If they are not up to par in the hos­pi­tal, then they can be de­nied a li­cense, but they are not re­quired to take any for­mal ex­ams.

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