Dr Jonathan CHOI Koon-shum (Chairman of the 51st terms of office) November 2019
We earnestly hope that the HKSAR government will put a stop to all violence with measures pursuant to the law and restore social order, so that business will be able to operate in a stable environment, only in which will the support measures be truly effective.
Further to a series of business support measures launched by the HKSAR government in recent months, the latest Policy Address proposed more than 220 policies aimed at relieving the burden on SMEs and rectifying longstanding social issues including housing, reflecting the government’s determination and willingness to address the concerns of the people and resolve the challenges facing Hong Kong.
It is our hope that all sectors of society will be able to put aside prejudices and embrace rational discussion. By supporting the Chief Executive and the HKSAR government in carrying out policies pursuant to the law, we can help to facilitate the smooth implementation of policies designed to improve people’s livelihood and the city’s economy, and help Hong Kong to move forward.
Supporting enterprises, safeguarding jobs and exploring new markets
The year-on-year growth of the Hong Kong economy in the first half of this year was 0.5%, a record low in 10 years. The provisional GDP growth in the third quarter is 2.9%, foreboding a technical recession of the local economy. Meanwhile, retail sales in the month of August registered the biggest decrease in record, while the unemployment rates in the retail and tourism-related industries rose to a two-year high, with the figure reaching 6% for the catering industry, the highest in six years.
Amid external and internal challenges and threats confronting the local economy and businesses, we welcome the HKSAR government’s support measures, such as increasing the loan guarantee ratio for SME borrowers, injecting funds into various SME funding schemes, exempting businesses from various fees and levies, and providing businesses with tax relief. And to help the sectors hit hard by the protests in recent months, including retail, tourism, catering and transport, the HKSAR government is offering rental reduction and fuel subsidy and has rolled out a cash incentive scheme to support travel agents. We believe these measures will relieve and boost the morale of businesses while offering SMEs and small businesses temporary relief. As the risk of economic recession rises, we believe the HKSAR government should continue to communicate closely with the concerned industries and monitor the social situation and the business environment for changes. When necessary, it should consider launching further targeted policies to alleviate the burden on businesses and prepare for possible large-scale layoffs and shakeout. We also appeal to the Legislative Council for approving the funding for the various support and relief measures as soon as possible to help different sectors ride out the difficult times.
In the long run, to maintain its competitiveness in the international arena, Hong Kong must actively explore both the Mainland and overseas markets, which will ameliorate risks brought by fluctuations in a single market. The Policy Address proposes to seek the policy support of the relevant Central authorities to extend the incentives and facilitations to Hong Kong enterprises intending to set up businesses in the Mainland’s overseas Economic and Trade Co-operation Zones, and to invite Mainland and Hong Kong enterprises to conduct joint promotional activities in the “Belt & Road Initiative” (B&R) economies, both of which are favorable to co-operation between the Mainland and Hong Kong under the B&R.
Furthermore, the Policy Address raises a number of new initiatives to deepen regional integration in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area), such as exploring the further expansion of the scale and scope of cross-boundary use of RMB, enhancing the connectivity among the financial markets in the Greater Bay Area, and promoting multi-destination tourism. Numerous industries of Hong Kong, including finance, aviation, innovation and technology and professional services enjoy advantages in the developments of the B&R and the Greater Bay Area. The HKSAR government should actively seize the opportunities created by the country’s strategic development to promote these industries and empower them so that they can adapt to structural changes of the economy.
Intensified effort to increase land and housing supply
In addition to addressing concerns regarding the economy and the outlook for businesses, the Policy Address substantially outlines the current administration’s short-, mid- and long-term policies to increase land and housing supply. These include increasing the number of transitional housing projects, raising the cap on the value of the properties eligible for a mortgage loan for first-time home buyers, and building more Starter Homes, in response to the needs of different social strata. The authorities have also announced multi-pronged measures to increase land supply, such as expediting land supply planning work, invoking the Lands Resumption Ordinance to resume more private land, announcing a proposed framework for the “Land Sharing Pilot Scheme”, and continuing to develop “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”.
We believe that the “Land Sharing Pilot Scheme” and “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” are the most suitable solutions with regard to the overall benefits of society. The former, leveraging market flexibility, can speed up the development of both public and private housing, while the latter can expand usable land through reclamation to satisfy the needs created by population growth and increased economic activities. It is understandable that the public have diverse opinions on these two projects and other land policies in the Policy Address. To respond to the wishes and needs of the people, the HKSAR government should continue to deepen the understanding of different sectors and consult the public on the various projects.
Putting a stop to violence and disruption and restoring social stability
In the past few months, social conflicts and violent clashes triggered by the proposed Fugitive Offenders Ordinance amendments have severely hurt Hong Kong’s rule of law and core values and disrupted the normal operation of society. We earnestly hope that the HKSAR government will put a stop to all violence with measures pursuant to the law and restore social order, so that business will be able to operate in a stable environment, only in which will the support measures be truly effective. We also hope that all sectors of society will stand together in rejecting violent acts, facing the problems confronting Hong Kong rationally and practically, and seeking solutions to take our society forward.