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SINGAPORE: Singapore looks like an attractive location for firms wanting to exit Hong Kong, but they may find a move to the city-state hits their bottom line more than expected.
With inflation soaring to the highest level in 14 years, expenses including the hiring of talent, office space and utilities are rising at a faster pace in Singapore than in its financial rival, where price increases have been more modest.
Accelerating prices haven’t stopped the rate of new business formation in the South-East Asian city-state from reaching a 17-month high in August.
In Hong Kong, the number of new local businesses has held roughly steady with 2021’s pace but is down from a peak in 2017.
Hong Kong is the most expensive office market in the world, but unpredictable virus guidelines and political uncertainty has plagued its economy, forcing landlords to cut office rents in core business districts through June by 4% from December.
In contrast, the cost of rent in Singapore’s central business area accelerated for a third quarter, continuing its upward momentum.
Singapore’s rental costs still remain well below Hong Kong’s, and even Beijing’s, according to a report by real estate investing firm JLL Singapore, but the gap is narrowing.
Singapore has scrapped the majority of its Covid-19 restrictions, including mask wearing in most places, taking strides towards normalcy and a full reopening to the world with the aim of luring more white-collar talent.,
Meanwhile, Hong Kong is playing catch-up, finally moving toward the elimination of mandatory hotel quarantine for inbound travellers after requiring 21 days.
“As a result of earlier quarantine clampdowns, labour tightness has been an issue for both hubs,” said a source.
Singapore’s ratio of job vacancies to those unemployed reached a historic high in the second quarter.
That resulted in salaries for new job offers rising faster than those in Hong Kong in many key sectors last year.
“Singapore’s faster reopening and ‘living with Covid’ versus Hong Kong’s ‘zero-Covid’ strategy is driving the divergence and higher increase in manpower and rental costs,” said Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Maybank Investment Banking Group.
Numbers aren’t available yet for this year, but pay increases for civil servants, which can have a knock-on effect on the private sector, have shown some notable differences.
Singapore’s civil servants are expecting a pay raise ranging from 5% to 14% this year, while Hong Kong proposed a 2.5% boost.
Hong Kong regulates its two electricity providers, but it isn’t immune to the energy price increases that swept the globe following the war in Ukraine.,