Dr Jonathan CHOI Koon-shum (Chairman of the 51st terms of office) April 2019
With its multiple strengths, the Greater Bay Area can serve as an important hinterland to support Hong Kong in its bid to break through development bottlenecks, create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for young talents, and drive Hong Kong’s continuous economic and livelihood development.
With the unveiling of the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) has become one of the “buzzwords” of the “Two Sessions” this year. Hong Kong NPC Deputies and CPPCC National Committee Members, including myself, put forward several proposals on this matter as it is very close to our hearts. At present, Hong Kong’s economic growth is generally stable, but “pain points”, such as land shortage and the monotonous industrial structure, remain unresolved and pose constraints on its long-term development. In our view, the Greater Bay Area, with its multiple strengths, can serve as an important hinterland to support Hong Kong in its bid to break through development bottlenecks, create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for young talents, and drive Hong Kong’s continuous economic and livelihood development.
The Greater Bay Area an important hinterland for Hong Kong
Premier Li Keqiang stated earlier this year to put in place a development plan for the Greater Bay Area, while the “Two Sessions” clearly communicate an important message to fully expedite planning and development of the Greater Bay Area. This year is expected to be crucial for full-speed implementation of the Greater Bay Area development plan.
In fact, as a new attempt to intensify mutually beneficial and win-win partnership among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, the Greater Bay Area can inject new impetus to propel development in the latter two. Benefitting from the Mainland’s reform and opening-up, Hong Kong has maintained its leading edge in various areas over the years. However, the local economy is vulnerable to external volatilities due to its services-focused industrial structure, which is not conducive to maintaining its international competitiveness in the long run.
In recent years, the HKSAR Government has been actively promoting industry diversification. However, Hong Kong is inevitably constrained by the limited size of its local market and excessive startup costs when it comes to developing emerging industries, such as innovation and technology (I&T) and intelligent production. By contrast, the Greater Bay Area’s large population and vast land areas not only enable businesses to expand their operation locations at lower rents and labor costs, but also provide a steady stream of customers and goods to support the expansion of Hong Kong industries.
Opening-up space for entrepreneurship and employment
Young people can capitalize on the country’s favorable policies to build their careers in the Greater Bay Area. Currently, there are many measures on the Mainland that facilitate Hong Kong citizens to explore business or employment opportunities. Such initiatives give further support to Hong Kong’s integration into national development via the Greater Bay Area. In addition, Mainland educational institutions will issue eligible Hong Kong and Macao graduates with “Employment Agreements” and “Employment Registration Certificates” to help them access the local employment market and build their careers. These facilitation measures will contribute to more frequent exchange of young talents within the Greater Bay Area.
We look forward to seeing the HKSAR Government actively consulting with relevant Mainland departments to explore expanding the scope of subsidy for individual income tax discrepancy, relaxing the conditions for market access, and implementing full mutual recognition of professional qualifications, so that more Hong Kong people can develop their businesses or careers through the Greater Bay Area. For professionals and technology talents working in the Greater Bay Area, they should be eligible for after-tax fiscal subsidies. In the long run, Hong Kong and Macao citizens working and living in the Greater Bay Area should be given the same treatment as Mainland residents.
Building an integrated regional living circle
Development of the Greater Bay Area can also bring about major breakthroughs on the social and livelihood fronts. The introduction of residence permits and opening of several cross-border infrastructure projects have significantly reduced the cost of people’s movement and interaction, which will help regional residents further expand their living space in the Greater Bay Area. The governments of the three places should step up cooperation to create a common living circle in the Greater Bay Area, including allowing cross-border use of elderly “Health Care Vouchers” as well as promoting the establishment of “Hong Kong-style hospitals” and “Hong Kong-style schools”.
Moreover, the three places may consider setting up a joint meeting on eco-environmental protection, jointly formulating eco-environmental standards and co-developing eco-technology and green finance, focusing on coordinating the utilization of ecological resources and overall environmental planning for the Greater Bay Area’s sustainable development.
In the long run, Hong Kong’s further integration and collaboration with other Greater Bay Area cities will help drive regional economy, society and livelihood steadily forward. The HKSAR Government, industrial and commercial enterprises and all sectors of the society should actively leverage Hong Kong’s unique strengths to capture the Greater Bay Area’s growth opportunities in order to open up a broader hinterland for Hong Kong’s overall development.