It’s not often that people pay attention to business in the Hong Kong Legislative Council, or to the thoughts of lawmaker Regina Ip. But today is an exception. The former Broomhead, Security Secretary and wannabe Chief Executive criticizes the government’s plan to hire an extra economist apparently with a mission to maintain Hong Kong’s position in international lists of business locations.
She describes this as a ‘colonial mentality’. In fact, the obsession with Hong Kong’s ranking in tables of global commercial hubs is more of a post-1997 thing. However, Regina seems to be questioning official fawning towards Western media and the whole Heritage Foundation/Davos/Forbes/Wall Street Journal/bores in suits/Freest Economy milieu. And not without reason – after all, no-one else takes this stuff seriously.
Seasoned observers of Hong Kong bureaucracy will raise an eyebrow at the reported HK$2 million salary for this job – surely, they will say, such a pointless civil-service post calls for at least HK$3.5 million?
They will be less surprised at the basic line of thinking – that these rankings matter and that appointment of a new official can solve the problem. In her earlier pledges, Chief Executive Carrie Lam specifically mentioned creating new government jobs in overseas-relations missions for no discernible reason at all.
The real story, however, is the underlying assumption: Carrie foresees Hong Kong slipping in international rankings of business-friendly locations. These lists essentially measure respect for individual rights, quality of life – and good governance in general.