Important to hold firm against rumourmongers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 November, 1997, 12:00am

I write to commend the Financial Secretary, the Monetary Authority and the three note-issuing banks for the decisiveness and swiftness of their statements of support for the International Bank of Asia (IBA). I write also to deplore those who spread malicious rumours in order to fish in troubled waters when people had been made nervous by stock fluctuations.

Hong Kong is going through trying times as investors take stock of the shifting situation. We are victims of nerves badly shaken from financial weaknesses in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, even though Hong Kong is not analogous to any of those countries.

Our fundamentals are sound with low unemployment, high savings rate, steady growth, plus lean and clean government. Our reserves are strong at $80 billion, our Monetary Authority is steadfast in its resolve, and we have no fiscal debt. More than ever we have to pull together and withstand the short-term steep interest rates forced up by our necessary defence of the peg. Hong Kong is suffering, but the pain is borne by everyone - from workers who will see their pay rise restrained, to developers who watch demand for property freeze, the hotel trade with a lower occupancy rate and merchants whose sales are flat.

Market contraction is global just as the economy has become global. I am sure we can emerge from the current crisis better than when we entered it with more affordable property prices and strengthened competitiveness. If we lose our confidence and focus now, we would only benefit those culpable for spreading the rumours that not only stung the IBA but also rocked the whole market for personal gain.

Hong Kong would exact a measure of revenge against the rumourmongers by everyone holding firm and biting the bullet.

JAMES TIEN Chairman Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce