Dr Jonathan CHOI Koon-shum (Chairman of the 50th terms of office) February 2017
While we recognize the direction to optimize the retirement protection policy in the Policy Address, we must take the capacity of the business community into account.
“The Year of the Rooster is finally here to grace this wonderful spring. Let me take this opportunity to wish all Committee Members and Members of the Chamber as well as our friends from different sectors a prosperous new year!
Last month, the Chief Executive delivered his final Policy Address for his term. The work plan has consistently demonstrated the proactive administration direction of the current-term government. Not only has it proposed a number of measures to help the elderly and the poor, to enhance the healthcare and education, and to seek land for housing construction, there are also initiatives to strengthen regional economic collaboration and suggestions to consolidate Hong Kong’s competitive industries and to promote development in emerging ones. All these show that the government has attached importance to the wellbeing of its people, and it is determined to foster economic development.
Seizing the chance to strengthen the cosmopolitan
A series of initiatives to complement Country’s development was proposed in the Policy Address, including the setup of Economic and Trade Offices in countries along the “Belt and Road” to fortify business connections. Even more exciting is the imminent inclusion of Hong Kong in the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, which will offer more room for development for the financial industries of Hong Kong, and benefit professional services such as accounting, legal, infrastructure operation management.
Our unique edge comes from having the Mainland as our hinterland with our international outlook. Our rich business experience and extensive external networks do not only enable us to function as the “super connector” in regional economic and trade cooperation, but also take up the additional roles of an “investor” and an “operator”, serving as a bridge in promoting “collaborative internationalization” with mainland enterprises.
Comprising mainly of SMEs, Hong Kong businesses may not necessarily have enough knowledge of the opportunities, legal systems and cultural differences about the “Belt and Road” markets. We hope that the government could provide more support for SMEs’ expansion into overseas markets.
Driving integration of traditions and innovations
The Policy Address mentioned that on top of consolidating our competitiveness in our pillar industries, we also need to promote the development of emerging industries such as financial technologies and technological innovation to promote industrial diversification in Hong Kong. In the face of an ageing population and issues such as inadequate manpower, the authorities should actively explore the feasibility of implementing an expansion of the importation of labor scheme, and to roll out more effective and more flexible mechanisms for importing labors and professionals to alleviate manpower shortage in Hong Kong. Furthermore, adopting technological renovation to make up for reduced productivity would be the general trend for developing the new economy. The authorities can look into policies and measures for enhancing the interfacing of technological innovation industries and traditional ones. For example, to inject new energy into traditional industries, technological R&D outcomes could be applied more to labour-intensive jobs.
The Policy Address also proposes to increase the number of convention and exhibition venues to attract more local and overseas companies to take part in exhibitions in Hong Kong and to further expand the market of business travelers. We believe that the authorities can also develop more attractions and even integrate with the in-depth cultural tours with the PRD region. We should capitalize on the regional shipping hub position of Hong Kong to appeal to Asian and international travelers, providing them with “one-stop” quality service.
Capacity of the business community should be considered
While we recognize the direction to optimize the retirement protection policy in the Policy Address, we must take the capacity of the business community into account and fully consider the impact brought about by policy changes in the business environment, employment and the overall economy.
The authorities propose to abolish the “offsetting” of severance payments or long service payments with MPF contributions, and suggest setting an implementation date with no retrospective effect. The proposals states that the Government will share part of the expenses of the payments in the ten years after the implementation date. Such expense sharing would only be temporary. In other words, employers will have to bear the full amount ten years later. For SMEs with cashflow constraints, the new policy is only putting a heavier burden on them, which could trigger a surge in closures and dismissals, hinder the development of startups and decrease young people’s propensity to start their own businesses. We hope that the authorities could listen to the views of the wider business community and make arrangements in fully integrating the systems of MPF, severance payments and long service payments, in promoting lowered MPF fees and in improving MPF returns; it should also consider a three-pronged contribution model for MPF so that employees, employers and the government all play their parts. On top of offering employees with improved retirement protection, these measures could also prevent employers from shouldering the burden from the new expenses that can be difficult to estimate.
Overall, the current-term government has spared no efforts in helping the poor and the elderly, in driving land and housing supply, as well as in taking care of people’s livelihood. Its achievements have been evident to all. On top of overseeing development in social welfare, we hope that the SAR government can take an active role in driving long-term economic development with concrete plans to further optimize Hong Kong’s business environment; to enhance our integrated competitiveness; and to assist companies in actively equipping themselves for the new economy, so that everyone could collaborate to capture the vast business opportunities from China’s deepened reform and the economic growth of B&R and other regional economic initiatives.