Which countries will compete for you

March 24, 2010
Hong Kong, SAR

One of the worst things that can happen to a country is to experience a brain-drain.  The loss of productive people who create new technologies and companies means the loss of the jobs and wealth that they create.

The long-term aggregate effects of this can be truly devastating, and history provides no shortage of examples.

By nature, though, people are generally creatures of habit– inert beings. They must be acted upon by a tremendous force to uproot them and get them moving… but everyone has a breaking point.

In aging superpowers, governments seem to be doing all they can to exert enough force to push people beyond their breaking points.

I have seen, from my own vantage point, a flood of new, fed up expats arriving to places like Hong Kong where the jobs and opportunities are plentiful, and they have strong incentives to be productive.

In fact, though it doesn’t have the same songs and bombastic statement as other countries who think they have the lock on ‘freedom,’ Hong Kong is one of the most economically free places in the entire world.  The level playing field ensures that everyone has a chance to succeed.

Do you remember how the world thought that Hong Kong was going to turn into yet another communist graveyard when it reverted to Chinese authority in 1997?

The exact opposite happened. Rather than force Hong Kong under its totalitarian authority, mainland China learned from the island’s success and adopted increasingly free market policies.

Hong Kong shows how far free market policies can go in transforming an entire society; 100-years ago, it was just a rock, devoid of any natural resources, and populated by largely illiterate fishermen.  Only decades later, the island had risen to prominence as a global financial center.

How did this happen? By allowing businesses to freely compete with each other for consumer dollars, and by attracting the best and brightest minds across the entire world to come and become wealthy from their hard work and ingenuity.

Essentially, this is the concept of “America” that has worked so many times in the past.

Today, Hong Kong has matured, along with the rest of Asia.   It is no longer the only free-wheeling boomtown of the “wild, wild east,” and the island now finds itself competing for financial primacy with the likes of Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, and even Labuan.

This competition is good, though, and I think it’s a sign of things to come.

Smaller jurisdictions, particularly those which lack cash cow natural resources, will continue to compete with each other to attract the most productive people through ultra-low taxes, residency/citizenship incentives, and top quality standard of living.

The theme is simple– “If you are bright and motivated, we want you to live here; and, because your ideas and hard work will make this a better place for everyone, we’ll let you keep most of what you earn and enjoy the fruits of your success.”

In aging superpowers, it goes something like this– “If you are bright and motivated, we expect you to provide for everyone else. You should be happy to do this because it is your patriotic duty, in our sole opinion. There will be consequences if you fail to comply.”

Large, debt-ridden nations will likely continue down their path of self-destruction.  I fully expect smaller countries, however, to choose a different direction and join the competition to attract the intellectual and financial capital of productive people.

This is good news for the productive who will find that they have increasing options for residence, better lifestyle, and the accumulation of wealth.

I’m seeing the signs of this already– for example, there is a very interesting new business and employment incentive program in Chile that I’ll be discussing soon, and a variety of new measures to boost entrepreneurship in countries as diverse as Guatemala, Cambodia, and Lithuania.

In the meantime, if you find yourself in the ‘fed up’ category, I’d strongly encourage you to look in places like Hong Kong for new beginnings… obtaining residency is a straightforward process, and within the island’s strong economy is a multitude of jobs and business opportunities