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Businesses’ Biggest Hong Kong Complaints: Pollution, Schools

The Wall Street Journal



International Commerce Centre, center, stands surrounded by residential and commercial buildings on the Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong, China, on April 2, 2012.

Hong Kong’s government likes to boast of its “stable, business-friendly” environment. But a rising number of companies say there’s plenty of room for improvement.

A new survey conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce and marketing consultants TNS finds that while 96% of the Chamber’s 500 member companies call the business environment “somewhat” or “very” satisfactory, the performance of the city’s government comes in for a drubbing.

Only 48% of members polled believe that the government has the right strategy to maintain and enhance Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness, a drop of 11% from last year.

For example, though English remains an official language in this former British colony, which returned to Chinese control in 1997, just half of Chamber members were satisfied with the government’s efforts to provide multilingual graduates and managers to meet Hong Kong’s economic needs.

Likewise, businesses were roundly critical of the government’s efforts to combat air pollution. Of the respondents, 94% reported being disappointed by the government’s efforts to improve Hong Kong’s dismal air quality, a source of particular concern for employees with young children. That number has risen significantly since 2010, the Chamber reports.

Another perennial frustration for expatriates based in Hong Kong—fierce competition for the limited number of international school slots available–also ranked high on issues of concern. Though the number of companies with employees whose children are stuck on a waiting list to enter schools in Hong Kong dropped to 15%, the number of expatriates who plan to try and relocate their families to Hong Kong has also sharply declined. In the coming year, just one-fifth of companies polled intend to bring employees to Hong Kong along with their families—a drop of nearly 25% from last year.

For Chamber members, the top two grievances about doing business in Hong Kong are the city’s “declining environment,” especially when it comes to air quality, and the lack of primary school slots in international schools. “The Hong Kong government seems not to recognize [both issues] are harming the competitiveness of Hong Kong when compared to regional competitors such as Singapore,” says Christopher Hammerbeck, the Chamber’s executive director.

– Te-Ping Chen. Follow her on Twitter @tepingchen

Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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