Hong Kong weathered the financial chaos of the past year relatively well. Just this past week, the chief executive reported to central government leaders that Hong Kong's economy was reviving, although he warned a downturn could hit in the middle of this year.
'Fortunately the impact on Hong Kong in 2009 was limited, thanks to a strong Chinese economy as our hinterland and a robust regional market,' says Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying (pictured).
The city has just recorded its first year-on-year export growth since the global financial crisis. Exports in November surpassed HK$240.7 billion - up 1.3 per cent from November last year. The year-on-year contraction in the city's gross domestic product eased from 7.8 per cent in the first quarter to 3.6 per cent in the second and 2.4 per cent in the third.
But for Leung, challenges remain in tackling the problems posed by a growing wealth gap.
'I wish more help for our low-income workers and poor families. While GDP per capita between 1996 and 2006 grew 34 per cent, the income of the bottom 30 per cent of our workers literally dropped. In 2010, will they continue to lag behind the pace of economic progress? It is my wish that they can enjoy a fair share of the economic growth in 2010 and continue to do so in the future.'
Leung also pointed out that the government began preparatory work on minimum wage legislation last year. He said he hoped all concerned parties could reach a meaningful resolution this year.
While in Beijing, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he felt pessimistic. 'A second trough may well emerge in the middle of next year. But we have what we need to deal with the coming situation. The aim is to work out some way to maintain people's confidence, without raising tax rates.'
The government's HK$500 billion in reserves - one of the highest levels among Asian economies - could be relied on for two years, he said.