Commentary: The gap between Singapore and Hong Kong as financial hubs is narrowing


Until then, Singapore needs to accommodate the inflow of foreign talent while maintaining the social balance and keeping inflation down. The demand for living and working in Singapore can increase quickly but the supply of housing, education, and transportation takes much longer to catch up.

In the short term, there can be bottlenecks in travel from Hong Kong to Singapore, with major airlines offering fewer flights to and out of Hong Kong due to the city’s stringent quarantine rules. Nonetheless, the senior executives are wealthy enough to make the trip.

Their sudden arrival in Singapore, however, heats up high-end markets for private housing and education.

Rentals for private homes in Singapore surged 4.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared to a rise of 2.6 per cent in the previous quarter, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Spots in international schools are scarce too, with each available slot receiving up to 15 applications from interested families, according to a Financial Times report in March.

Before these shortages ease, the needs of new expats could crowd out that of locals, though this could be somewhat limited given the niche demands.

But with inflation felt everywhere from food to energy prices, locals will be eyeing the attractive white-collar jobs these firms bring with them. It might be challenging for policymakers to curb the demand in the short term without killing it in the long run.

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Singapore will raise the minimum qualifying salary for incoming finance professionals from S$5,000 to S$5,500 in September – though it is a bar senior bankers can easily clear. But with more than 9,400 new jobs in finance on offer this year, coupled with a tight labour market, such high-powered immigration to Singapore could be a good problem to have for now.

Hu Jianfeng is an Associate Professor of Finance and a Lee Kong Chian Fellow at Singapore Management University.

Artmotion Asia

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