Hong Kong and Singapore are the most investor friendly economies in the Asia-Pacific region, helped by effective governments, openness to trade and “generous tax breaks,” according to a survey by Vriens & Partners Pte.
Hong Kong ranks first and Singapore second among 18 regional economies covered by the Singapore-based consulting company’s “Good Governance for International Business — Asia Pacific 2010” report.
The survey asked 100 executives from mining, oil and gas, telecommunications and consumer goods companies to judge each market in the areas of rule of law, openness to international trade and business, taxation, corruption, public-sector quality and effectiveness of fiscal and monetary administration.
“We see companies and governments are often miles apart and don’t necessarily talk to each other, except in Singapore and Hong Kong,” managing partner Hans Vriens said in an interview on Friday.
“There is a correlation between openness, success and GDP per capita,” Vriens added.
The survey focuses on Southeast Asia, where Singapore is poised to overtake Malaysia this year as the region’s largest economy after Indonesia and Thailand. Singapore’s GDP will cap its fastest growth since independence, rising as much as 15 percent to about US$210 billion this year, while Malaysia, 478 times larger, may expand 7 percent to US$205 billion, government forecasts show.
In both Singapore and Malaysia, foreign direct investment may improve with the conclusion of free-trade talks in the next two years with the EU, said Vriens & Partners, whose clients include multinational companies operating in Asia.
“When it comes to China and India and the market size, the growth is there,” said Aaron Franz, an associate at Vriens & Partners who led the study. “For the smaller economies, market size alone is not enough. For Hong Kong and Singapore, good governance is what you sell the whole chop on.”
Lower-income countries score “poorly” except in taxation, which is easy to implement, he added.
“It’s much more difficult to provide public-sector policy effectiveness and rule of law,” he said. “If there is going to be more and more money flowing into this region, it means a search for growth. In a lot of ways China is saturated. It’s not the case in countries in Southeast Asia.”