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December 12, 2006
Singapore and Hong Kong have long competed for the title of Asia’s premier financial centre and favoured destination for foreign professionals.
Singapore’s claim received a boost in November when Merrill Lynch, an American investment bank, declared that Hong Kong's air pollution was so bad that investors should sell shares in developers there and buy shares in their Singaporean rivals. Spencer White,
the bank's analyst, also forecast that Hong Kong office rents might fall 5% in 2007.
Singapore has its own air-pollution problems, but this is usually an annual bout of so-called “haze”, caused by farmers in neighbouring Indonesia setting fire to tropical forests to clear land. Hong
Kong’s problem, by contrast, is a year-round miasma churned out mainly by factories on the Chinese mainland. “About 40% of those in my social circle who work in the financial sector are looking to leave [Hong Kong] because of the pollution,” Mr White told
a Singaporean newspaper. His investment advice was nothing more than “common sense”, he said, and he predicted Singapore would benefit as more people move there.
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