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Singapore Beats HK In Survey Of Asian Expats

Nick Gentle – Updated on Mar 12, 2009 – SCMP

Singapore appears to have finally achieved its dream of being better than Hong Kong at something.

The Lion City was yesterday named the most desirable destination for expatriates from Asia.

Hong Kong would have been in contention for first place were it not for its appalling air pollution, according to ECA International, which organised the survey.

Instead, the city wheezed its way to 11th on the list. That ranking puts Hong Kong not only behind Sydney, Vancouver, Copenhagen and Wellington, but also behind Canberra, Australia’s capital and, some say, the world’s most boring city.

And according to Lee Quane, regional director for ECA – which, incidentally, has its Asian office in Sheung Wan, not Singapore – being boring might be the secret to at least a couple of the top 10’s successes.

“I think to be honest, that’s what helped get Canberra over the line,” Mr Quane said.

Mr Quane said that while it shares 11th position with Antwerp, Bern, Brussels and Dublin, Hong Kong had actually moved up in the rankings since the last survey, in 2007.

“Basically, that rise is down to improved perception of health care services in the city. There were less concerns about health risks also,” he said, referring to fears about bird flu.

The survey, which ranked 254 cities according to a number of criteria including health care, air quality and crime, is designed to be used by firms to determine whether they need to pay so-called hardship allowances to expatriate workers. Hong Kong was not considered a place where salaries needed to be augmented in that way. “If you’re coming from anywhere in Asia, then Hong Kong is not a hardship posting,” Mr Quane said.

A government spokeswoman defended the city. “Hong Kong’s positioning as `Asia’s world city’ is founded on the basis that Hong Kong is where opportunity, creativity and entrepreneurship converge, and are further underpinned by the rule of law,” she said.

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