Mr YUEN Mo (Chairman of the 52nd terms of office) January 2021
It is all the more important for Hong Kong to take advantage of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle to reposition itself and speed up integration with the Mainland. In particular, it should actively contribute to the development of the Greater Bay Area while continuing to promote development of the local economy.
The year 2020 saw the world grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, while Hong Kong’s economy experienced the toughest challenges in nearly two decades. The arrival of the vaccine comes with the hope that the pandemic will be gradually brought under control, and the possibility of global economic recovery in the new year. In the Mainland, the painstaking effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus has proven to be a success, as reflected by the fact that the country’s economy already bounced back last year. Further growth is expected for the Mainland economy in 2021, which will also fuel the recovery of Hong Kong’s economy.
Resolute measures to cope with the impact of the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the Hong Kong economy, with tourism-related industries including aviation, travel and the hotel sector hit the hardest. In response, the HKSAR government launched the Anti-epidemic Fund and rolled out several rounds of subsidies over the past year to help hard-hit industries and workers. Since the impact of the pandemic is extensive and that social distancing restrictions and closure of venues may need to stay in force for some time, we hope the authorities will consider launching the third tranche of the “Employment Support Scheme” to relieve some of the burden on businesses and prevent large-scale business closures and layoffs.
As long as the pandemic remains volatile, the HKSAR government must resolutely adopt all necessary measures to curb its spread. Particularly, it should earmark more resources to expand community testing, increase the number of testing centers, and make testing compulsory for high-risk groups such as medical workers, restaurant workers, caretakers and residents of buildings with a large number of confirmed cases, so as to stop the spread of the coronavirus at source and allow the public to get back to their normal life. In fact, the government’s measures aimed at economic recovery will take full effect only when the spread of the disease is contained, if not when a “zero case” scenario is achieved. The Hong Kong authorities should also implement the mutual recognition system for health codes with their Mainland counterparts, so that the movement of people between the two places can resume as soon as possible to boost economic activities in Hong Kong.
In truth, how the Hong Kong economy will turn out in the year ahead will likely be dictated by the development of the pandemic in not just Hong Kong but also around the world. While the HKSAR government is about to launch a vaccination program, we hope it will make all the essential preparations and ensure enough public awareness to facilitate the smooth implementation of the program. In the long run, it will be wise for the HKSAR government to work with the Mainland authorities in countering the spread of diseases, as the Mainland’s extensive experience, rich resources and sound systems can help to expand Hong Kong’s disease detection and treatment capabilities. It is equally important to train local personnel, introduce advanced testing technology and medical equipment, as well as identify suitable medical venues to cope with sudden challenges that may arise from the current pandemic.
Development in the Greater Bay Area is key
As the vaccine is being applied across the world, it is hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic will slowly come under control. The economic revival policies implemented by various governments also spark hopes that the global economy will go back on track this year. For Hong Kong, the acceleration of the establishment of a “dual circulation” development pattern and intensified development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) proposed under China’s “14th Five-year Plan” are expected to generate tremendous opportunities for its economy. The HKSAR government’s business promotion initiatives such as the one-stop “GoGBA” platform to be launched by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council will also help Hong Kong businesses to tap into the Mainland market. Leveraging its strength as an international trade hub, Hong Kong can consolidate its role as an intermediary between the Mainland and international markets to become a convergent point in the country’s “dual-circulation” strategy.
In particular, the financial sector can promote its unique services to other Greater Bay Area cities to further consolidate Hong Kong’s position as an international financial hub. Meanwhile, Hong Kong should step up cooperation with Guangdong in the area of innovation and technology, so that the basic research capabilities of Hong Kong’s higher institutions and research organizations can achieve synergy with the high-tech industry in the Greater Bay Area to raise the level of technological innovation in the region.
The “Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme” and the “Funding Scheme for Youth Entrepreneurship in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” highlighted in the Chief Executive’s latest Policy Address are expected to create diverse employment and business opportunities for Hong Kong youths. We hope the authorities will consider expanding the scope of subsidies for companies, such as providing subsidies on training and salaries, to encourage businesses to hire low-skilled young people with little or no work experience.
In summary, the pandemic will, in 2021, continue to influence the course of the global economy, whose recovery will be driven by Mainland China. Under the circumstances, it is all the more important for Hong Kong to take advantage of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle to reposition itself and speed up integration with the Mainland. In particular, it should actively contribute to the development of the Greater Bay Area and serve the needs of the country, while continuing to promote diversification of the local economy.