Aung Myint Oo
HUB literally means centre of an activity or network. Functionally, it acts as a nerve centre providing something essential or coordinating the others in its network with regard to a particular area of interest e.g. finance, medicine, education, transport and information technology etc. A hub can be put into a geographical context such as global, regional or national depending on its level of significance and dominance.
Status to be a hub is usually associated with some or all of those attributes such as wealth, top-notch services, sound legal and regulatory landscape, good human resource management, customer friendliness and historical significance. Besides being a financial booster, as ‘hub-status’ also means prestige, understandably it is usually regarded as something worth striving for although not easy to attain and a lot more difficult to maintain.
Logically, who to be labelled as hub should mainly be the business and interest of its customers and peers. However, nowadays tradition of ranking the competitors by a third party such as a think-tank or consultancy agency sometimes can possibly turn the game into some form of commercialization or political play. One should also keep the fingers crossed and pray that ‘media won’t add the colours to it’. Otherwise, things can become misleading for the customers.
Although ‘hub-status’ generally serves as a reward to the holder, there is no guarantee that it is always on bright side. One of the potential downsides is possible conflict with the interest of its own community. A good example can be competition for limited healthcare resources between overseas patients seeking treatments and local patients. Therefore, carefully thought-out policies safeguarding the interest of its own population while maintaining reputation as a medical hub ought to be in place before enjoying the fruits of medical tourism industry.
The other potential risk of being a hub is ‘unwanted hub-status’. To describe it, one should imagine a context where a society or a country with unique policy permissive to a particular service to fulfill its own local need may inadvertently open the floodgates for overseas patients who are unable to seek that particular service in their own country due to some reasons e.g. legal restrictions, unless there are preventive measures such as policy and legislative safeguards in place. Good examples for such services are abortion and surrogacy whereby a woman rents her womb to another woman to give birth on her behalf for medical or non-medical reasons and with or without a fee for her service. The irony of such scenario is that it will be very easy and spontaneous to become a hub without a usual hard fight.
Even though without involving the risks mentioned above and something really looks peaceful, universal and spiritual, it could still impose some level of risks to the society once it possesses a hub-status. Please take Myanmar as an example. As of now, despite huge potential of development in near future, Myanmar is not yet a hub in any of the sectors mentioned earlier. However, Myanmar has a unique status in the world as a hub of Theravada Buddhism. Neither like a medical hub with the issue of conflicts for limited resources, nor like a financial hub with huge risks of money laundering, but it has been experiencing its own unique risks of potential conflicts between different religions which is really detrimental to the society and could seriously hamper its development potentials.
To conclude, though it is not a concrete and easy way-out to the issues mentioned, status of hub should always be coupled with carefully thought-out policies, legislations and more importantly, with involvement of the government and the entire society to safeguard its own interest. Therefore, it is good to be a hub, but always with due care.