As Hong Kong Leader Tsang Leaves Office, His Legacy: Worlds Dirtiest Financial Center
As Chief Executive Donald Tsang steps down after seven years in office, he leaves a city that boasts the world's most valuable stock exchange, hosted three of the five biggest initial share sales in history, and is the best place on the globe for business, a new gauge by Bloomberg Rankings shows. Blotting the record is another superlative: the most polluted international financial center.
New York, London, Tokyo and Singapore all have cleaner air and more ambitious improvement targets, according to WHO data and the city governments' websites. As China opens its economy, removing the capital controls that led investors to use Hong Kong as a proxy for Chinese growth, pollution risks undermining Tsang's economic successes.
"I am leaving Hong Kong explicitly because of the air," said Alex Turnbull, an Australian banker at a Wall Street firm, who plans a move to Singapore in May. "When capital controls leave, how on earth will this city stay competitive? Hong Kong is at risk of being irrelevant in the long run."
The government will continue to strive for better air quality, "both for our citizens' health and to attract overseas talents and enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness as a financial hub and tourist destination," Tsang's office said in an e- mailed response to questions yesterday. Sandwiched between the Asian headquarters of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a Tiffany & Co. outlet, the air-quality meter in the Central business district has registered an average roadside pollution level of "high" or "very high" every day bar one this year. In 1999, 66 percent of days were at those levels. By 2010 and 2011, it was more than 90 percent.