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Business leaders mapping ways ahead at Oxford-HKUST forum

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 2:16pm

Hong Kong business leaders are mapping out strategies to meet current economic and political challenges and help the city play an influential role in the rise of Asia in the decade to come.

They have suggested that building on core values such as the rule of law and leveraging efficiencies in the local rail system are among the key initiatives the government could contemplate.

Inaugurating the “Visions of the City” forum in the Oxford-HKUST Leadership and Public Policy Series on January 8, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying set the tone for the discussion.

“Hong Kong is an open society. We have open borders. More importantly, both the people and the government of Hong Kong have an open mind,” Leung said.

Countries in Asia have very different levels of economic and social development and most are changing fast. However, Leung noted that Hong Kong was lucky to enjoy strong support from China, where the Third Plenum has set new targets in line with the nation’s 12th Five-Year Plan, supporting Hong Kong's development as China's international financial, trading and transportation centre under the "one country, two systems" policy.

Victor Fung Kwok-king, group chairman of the Fung Group, which runs international sourcing firm Li & Fung, added that Hong Kong should continue to play a role in facilitating the flow of four things - namely goods, talent, money and information – in Asia to enhance regional competitiveness.

“I see Hong Kong [as an intermediary] between the north and the emerging southern part of Asia,” Fung said. “I would say in the next thirty years this is the most important flow in the world.”

He said Hong Kong had a solid foundation in terms of infrastructure – port, airport, road and rail links - which had contributed to the city’s status as a major trading centre. “I can assure you, in the international arena, when we speak up and talk, people listen,” Fung said. “Why? Because we stand for the rule of law in the world and we stand for what it means.”

MTR Corp chief executive Jay Walder, who worked in London and New York before coming to Hong Kong, said our rail system was a model for other cities to study. London mayor Boris Johnson is known to be one of its admirers.

“Sometimes we forget, or take for granted, how integrated our transport system is to the city,” Walder said. “The rail system [is like a] backbone that passes through the already developed districts and has paved the way for renewal or regeneration of urban centres. Hong Kong has a world-leading railway that runs day to day on a self-sustaining basis without direct subsidy from the government.”

Efficiency may be world class, but our housing is not because the city is struggling with a limited supply of land to meet the needs of a growing population. Vincent Lo Hong-sui, chairman of Shui On Land, said Hong Kong needed more land but that practical solutions – such as reclamation, New Territories North East development, and encroachment into the country parks – were not easy to find, often due to politics.

“I do believe we are at a critical juncture for Hong Kong’s future. I do think there are some important considerations that we must look at while we wrestle with all the critical and difficult issues,” Lo said. “Not even a popularly elected CE [chief executive] would have the magic wand to resolve the challenge arising from the ‘dual integration’ process.”

HKUST and Oxford University have jointly developed the Leadership and Public Policy Series, which aims to provide executive education short courses for public sector officials from Hong Kong, China and eventually Asia.