by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Hong Kong, not long ago a fishing village, a “barren island” with no natural resources, became an economic powerhouse with one of the world’s highest standards of living. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip has been described as a hellhole. There’s a reason the two are so different: The former chose to pursue prosperity while peacefully coexisting for a half century next to a territory-acquisitive communist regime, the latter chose to consume itself with hatred toward its neighbor.
Modern Hong Kong began to take shape in the 1950s. It now has one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the world. But it wasn’t always a paradise teeming with human capital. At the end of World War II, the population was only 600,000, about a third of what it had been before the war due to food scarcity and the flight of refugees. …
… While much of the world was moving in the other direction, Hong Kong’s leaders adopted free-market capitalist policies. John Cowperthwaite, financial secretary from 1961 to 1971, was one of the economy’s architects. He had “championed the laissez-faire approach since he arrived in Hong Kong in 1945,” says the Institute for Economic Affairs. and “believed that human progress would best be served by a skeptical stance toward proposed government intervention.”
By no coincidence whatsoever, Hong Kong became “a free-market success story.” …
… But in stark contrast to Hong Kong, Gaza has hardly, if at all, developed beyond a Third World existence. Though it is as densely populated as major cities around the world, “it lags far behind” on several measures, including something so basic as the provision of safe drinking water, a failing which ultimately led to a water crisis.
The jobless rate in Gaza is 46%, among the world’s worst (in Hong Kong, it’s less than 3%).