Dr Jonathan CHOI Koon-shum (Chairman of the 51st terms of office) May 2020
It is encouraging to see that the persistent, concerted effort of the local community to combat COVID-19 over the past few months has allowed the situation in Hong Kong to stabilize. We must, however, stay alert at all time in the face of the volatility of the disease, as we plan for the resumption of normal businesses operation in the meantime. Since the epidemic is likely to leave a far-reaching impact on the economy and business landscape, there is all the more reason for Hong Kong to integrate into the country’s development framework and seek out new opportunities.
Balancing disease prevention and economic activities
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong drops significantly, it is time the HKSAR government considered relaxing certain prevention measures and restrictions, while guarding against imported cases as the disease is still raging in Europe and America. There is also the need to regularize prevention effort. In short, it is important for the authorities to ensure a balance between disease prevention and the resumption of economic activities.
With the spread of COVID-19 now under control in the Mainland, most Chinese provinces and cities have gradually allowed businesses to restart. As a result, many Hong Kong business owners and executives urgently need to travel to the Mainland for work. We hope the authorities will closely monitor the development of the epidemic and lift the mandatory quarantine arrangements when the situation allows. We also hope the HKSAR government will discuss with Mainland officials the possibility of relaxing quarantine measures for business professionals and giving the business sector greater flexibility to travel across the border.
Whereas the HKSAR government has twice injected funds to the Anti-epidemic Fund and launched a number of relief measures, the focus should shift to helping businesses get back on track as soon as the epidemic is contained. To this end, we have made several observations. Firstly, the epidemic has demonstrated that the application of technology helps to create new business opportunities for various sectors. With many people working and studying from home, the demand for social communication apps and online shopping has soared. In light of this, the HKSAR government can explore the development of B2B and B2C platforms for different sectors to engage potential customers and partners.
Secondly, the dwindling demand from overseas markets has left many Hong Kong businesses with cancelled orders and shriveled revenues. In this regard, the authorities should help businesses tap into new markets by such means as enhancing the various funding schemes and simplifying the related application and approval procedures. We also suggest the extension of the BUD Fund to cover the Belt & Road Initiative (B&R) regions so that Hong Kong businesses can expand into new markets.
Capitalizing on business opportunities in the Greater Bay Area and B&R
Being a highly open export-oriented economy, Hong Kong should work in tandem with the country’s policy of deepening reform and opening-up. In particular, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) and the B&R promise tremendous opportunities. To benefit from these initiatives, Hong Kong needs to fully leverage its inherent advantages and strengthen cooperation with the Mainland.
In March, I submitted a number of proposals to CPPCC, highlighting the promotion of the Greater Bay Area and B&R developments. In view of the cooperation among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao on developing an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub in the Greater Bay Area, which will forge the area into the forefront of I&T development, I recommended the establishment of an international I&T committee to coordinate the long-term planning of I&T development in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, and the setting up of a dedicated bank and fund to provide financial support for the development of large-scale I&T infrastructure as well as I&T and research and development (R&D) projects in the Greater Bay Area.
As for the B&R Initiative, the economic zones endorsed by the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC are equipped with sufficient capital and qualified operators, thus providing participating businesses with greater support and protection. Hong Kong and Mainland businesses can join hands to develop the supply chain and industrial clusters, while the HKSAR government can organize B&R trade missions for Hong Kong businesses to take part and explore new opportunities in the markets along the B&R.
Inevitably, the COVID-19 outbreak this year has dealt a blow to the global economy. Thanks to its resilience, the Mainland economy is among the first to emerge from the crisis. By working in solidarity and riding on the country’s sustained economic growth, Hong Kong, which enjoys unique ties with the Mainland, can be expected to ride out the storm and get back on track soon.