John Slosar: Hong Kong government should maintain ‘light touch’, avoid handouts to business

The South China Morning Post posted five key questions to interviewees in the Moving Forward series, seeking their insight on the city’s future. Here are the views of Swire Pacific’s John Slosar

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 May, 2016, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 May, 2016, 10:15pm

Do you think Hong Kong is an ideal place to do business?

Absolutely. From a business point of view, Hong Kong is still a fabulous place to operate a business. The administration here has a light touch, the rule of law is strong, contracts are very clear and making things work here is relatively straightforward. Last but certainly not least, and something very important for us, Hong Kong people are fabulous. Hong Kong is a place where we don’t have oil resources, we don’t have much land, but what we have are great and energetic people. It is the key to explaining Hong Kong’s great success.

How is your company coping with the ­economic downturn in Hong Kong and the mainland?

A lot of businesses we have are long-term ones. Property is a long-term business, aviation is certainly long term. Beverages is about brand building over a long period of time. We try to manage short-term issues, but they do not determine how we behave as a company. What determines that are the long-term prospects. We are still very positive in Hong Kong and in China. We will continue to invest.

What do you think the government should do to help your business to do better?

The growth of Hong Kong is largely because it has a government with a light touch. The government sets the ground rules and keeps everybody on them and everybody is playing by the rules.

But it is not necessary for every business to say “please help me with this, please help me with that.” Businesses will figure out their own ways.

I do not think the Hong Kong government has to do anything to help business. Businesses have to learn to help themselves in a very competitive global economy.

Having said that, Hong Kong government has a lot to do in terms of building Hong Kong society, making sure that the education system is fabulous. More and more, the world is about the knowledge economy, so the government must make sure that people coming out of the education system are ready to compete in a knowledge economy.

The government should make sure Hong Kong keeps its administration and regulations down to the most manageable level. People should be allowed to be flexible to do what they need to do in Hong Kong.

What is your advice to young people to achieve a successful career?

Every generation wonders what they will become when they are in university. When I was young, I also wondered what my future would be.

What always works out for people well is they try things. You need to be proactive and go out and try things and find the things you really like.

There are a lot of jobs out there, you can find them, try different things and try something that you really like .

Hong Kong is such an international place that people can be involved in many industries. There’s manufacturing, tourism and logistics. All these industries are hiring.

But you have got to be smart, you have got to show that you really want to get that job. You need to be a competent person.

If you had one sentence to say how Hong Kong could move forward, what would it be?

If you look back on Hong Kong from 40 years ago to now, I think fundamentally it comes down to the “can do” spirit of Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong people have been energetic and aggressive in terms of finding ways to do business ways to add value. As long we have that “can do” spirit, as long as we say “hey business is out there, let’s go and find ways to do business,” we will be fine.