Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Avoid Marginalization Through Competition

Today's edition of The Standard reported on the warnings sounded out by National People's Congress vice chairman Cheng Siwei:

"Like the fabled hare being overtaken by a tortoise, Hong Kong risks losing its position as a international financial center if it sticks to its "old ways," National People's Congress vice chairman Cheng Siwei warned Tuesday in Beijing...

"If Hong Kong people focus on internal political rows but not economic development, they will be marginalized," Cheng told a media briefing less than two weeks before the SAR's March 25 chief executive election."

Read more here.

It is ultimately a time allocation problem, isn't it? If you devote more time to work on political matters, you have less time left to deal with economic issues. But then in economics, we talk about choice at the margin. That is, every one in HK is calculating whether spending one more unit of time in political activities brings higher benefit than other activities. Throw in different preferences, different opportunities confronting different people, it seems unlikely most of HK's working population would devote most of their time to political activities. Therefore, the outcome Mr. Cheng talked about would be an unlikely one.

If one were to worry about HK being marginalized, there is another consideration which is far, far more important in my opinion. That is Beijing's attempt to limit the growth opportunities of mainland cities in order to "enhance" HK's role as our country's premier interntational financial center.

In a market economy, you don't get assigned to such role, you earn it through beating your rivals in the market place. Horning HK's competitive edge through vigorous competition with other mainland cities and other global ones is the only route for HK to stay ahead. However, this is not happening, as I talked about in a previous post.

No comments: