We live in a topsy-turvy world. Just as everyone was getting to grips with the ‘new world order’ of post-Cold War rules-based globalisation, we appear to have lurched violently in a strikingly different direction. But this isn’t a reason to feel gloomy about future economic prospects.
From the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the rise of the populist right in virtually all European Union countries, to the elections of Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, democratic processes have delivered ‘populist’ results that challenge previously received notions of the value of international institutions and the benefits of globalisation.
There are real issues and sound logic underpinning these movements, and it would be wrong to assume these are only temporary phenomena. While the global economy overall has recovered from the financial crisis of 2007/8, improvements have been unequal, with many electorates feeling bruised by capitalism and left behind by globalisation. Those in the West who earn lower and middle incomes have seen their cost of living increase, their real wages fall, their benefits decrease and house prices becoming more unaffordable. They have not shared in the prosperity that globalisation has brought to others.
Featuring comment from Tony Langham, Terence Dwyer, Andrea Hossó, Andrew Morriss and Alicia Nicholls.
From time to time, I have been asked to participate in debates on a perennial topic – ’Which is better – Hong Kong or Singapore?’. In recent years, I have declined these invitations, for two reasons. First, most of these debates take place in Singapore where I would be likely to lose the argument. Secondly, and more seriously, there seems to be no point in debating this topic. The results are always inconclusive.
Twenty years ago, the SOHO area of Hong Kong was a grubby concoction of warehouses and tenements, not readily accessible because of its narrow lanes and steep hills. To reduce the traffic flow and encourage more pedestrianisation in the Mid-Levels area, the government decided to install the world’s largest escalator system from close to the Hong Kong shoreline to the top of the residential hills, to encourage more pedestrianization.
As luck would have it, the new escalator went directly through the SOHO area. It’s unclear whether the escalator succeeded in reducing traffic volumes, but one thing it did do was to make SOHO more accessible. The immediate result was that a few bars and restaurants established themselves in the area and gradually drew customers, although the area remained niche. Then, one of the big chains noticed this trend and decided to demolish some buildings and construct a large modern bar complex in the area. The plan prompted outrage as night-lifers bemoaned that…