Honkers or Singers? Which Asian megacity is more appealing to foreign businesses?
AI company ImageDeep was the latest to open its Asia-Pacific office in Hong Kong, citing the city’s strategic global position and involvement in the Greater Bay initiative as its reasons for expanding into the 852. The decision came as a surprise to some, as while there is a long history of financial firms expanding into Hong Kong, tech companies have increasingly been reaching for Singapore instead. ImageDeep’s move has thrown up the age old debate: Hong Kong vs Singapore, which of these two Asian mega-cities has the edge for modern businesses?
Fairs fair, both are extremely attractive to western businesses and remain the two most popular options for Western businesses wanting to get a piece of the ever-growing Asian market. Both being port towns Hong Kong and Singapore already have a great geographical advantage and their international airports, tap into a vast yet quickly navigated network of nearby countries and educated multilingual workforce mean businesses are spoilt for choice when it comes to hiring time. The government allows foreigners to own all of their shares, there is no mandate to have a native director on the company’s board and taxes are low with multiple exemptions available.
Hong Kong’s well-founded history of financial success, far reaching travel links and low low tax rates have been attractive to overseas entrepreneurs for decades. Singapore has easier access to the growing Indian and Sri Lankan markets and boast their super clean streets, mega high living standards and highly engineered public transport system as an absolute win over Hong Kong, where pollution has long been a problem. But what Singapore sees as its greatest strength might just be its downfall when it comes to incoming Westerners. Many expats living in Hong Kong revel in the varied landscape and diversity in people and they think Singapore a little bit too homogenised. While the two can boast strong legal systems which protect the business interests of foreign business owners a few think the Singaporean system might be a little too eager. Hong Kong’s procedures might take a little longer but it’s generally agreed that this is in the interest of making sure everything is done in the most just manner possible.
For the sake of diplomacy we’ll continue to call it a toss-up. For some Singapore’s spotless streets are utter paradise and for others the rolling mountains and gleaming spires of Hong Kong spell an irresistible adventure.
Text: Alice Duncan