Manufacturing chief predicts sluggish economy despite record turnout at fair

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 January, 2009, 12:00am

Despite a record turnout at the 43rd Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo in Victoria Park, Lo Fu-cheong, vice-president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association, the fair's organiser, expects the economy to stagnate after the Lunar New Year.

Fears that the global financial crisis would cripple the fair were dispelled when, by New Year's Day, 1.97 million people had entered the expo - trumping the total of 1.93 million visitors to the previous fair, a year ago - and providing a sign that consumers were still willing to spend on retail goods.

However, 'later in January and February the economy will reach an even more critical stage', Mr Lo predicted. 'From here on, each individual manufacturer will need to look at diversifying its production.'

Danny Lau Tat-pong, chairman of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association, spelled out the same gloomy outlook for Hong Kong industry. He said about 3,000 manufacturing firms would face financial difficulties after the Lunar New Year, with some plants stopping production or becoming insolvent.

The government plan to guarantee loans to small and medium-sized enterprises was inadequate, Mr Lau said, especially in the manufacturing sector, because of banks' persistent unwillingness to lend.

'Some manufacturing firms have closed down already, while others won't know how many clients will place orders until after the Lunar New Year,' Mr Lau said.

The 43rd Brands and Products Expo wraps up this weekend, three weeks after opening its doors, and included the staging of a Miss Exhibition Pageant.

Helen Tang won a poll among expo visitors. The assistant executive from Goodway Electrical walks away with over HK$150,000 in prizes and says she looks forward to helping promote Hong Kong industry.