• Fri
  • Nov 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:48pm

Key role in Pearl River Delta will ensure Hong Kong’s future, researcher says

Talk of city's diminishing status against Asian rivals is overdone, says researcher, who sees bright future for 'brain' of Pearl River region

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 11:12am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 11:56pm

That Hong Kong is losing ground against regional rivals Shanghai, Singapore and even Seoul is a given among some business leaders and politicians, who are quick to blame the city's declining competitiveness and its whingeing youth.

They can stop worrying for now, as Hong Kong is a leader in Asia and will remain so for many years to come, Greg Clark, the author of a study of global metropolises, said.

[Hong Kong can lead] an innovation economy that has a big geography to it

The city has all the key ingredients for success, including an entrepreneurial workforce and a strong education system, and just needs to be confident and stay relevant in a rapidly developing Asian economy, said Clark, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a US think tank. "Overall, Hong Kong is not dying," he said.

Already the financial capital for China, Hong Kong should embrace its location at the bottom tip of the Pearl River Delta, "one of the most regionally competitive places in the world" and home to about 100 million people, Clark said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the JP Morgan-Asia Society "One Step Ahead" series of seminars on global competitiveness, Clark predicted 10 to 15 successful world cities will develop in Asia over the coming decades, each with its own slice of an ever-growing pie.

Regional integration is just the beginning, and "so long as Hong Kong remains the brain of the PRD, Hong Kong will survive", he said. "Hong Kong should see itself as leading an innovation economy that has a big geography to it," Clark said.

"It's not just about making one science park work. It's about having an innovation system for the PRD where Hong Kong plays a leading role in providing the venture capital, the intellectual property, some of the research and development."

Hong Kong's position vis-à-vis competing metropolises is important, as it influences public perception.

The image of a flailing city struggling to compete is sometimes cited to deter possible image-harming public protests like Occupy Central and as an excuse to limit welfare handouts despite healthy government budget surpluses.

Clark's research looks at 10 criteria, including a city's ability to attract investment, connectivity and global identity. He identifies New York, London, Paris and Tokyo along with Hong Kong and Singapore as leading contemporary metropolises.

But others caution against complacency.

"Initial competitive advantage is not unassailable," said Kim Sun-bae, an economics professor at the National University of Singapore Business School.

Speaking at the same conference, Kim described how America's financial centre shifted from Philadelphia to Boston to New York over a 300-year period as the country's economy evolved from textiles to railroads.

Comparing Hong Kong to a light-reflecting moon, rather than the sun, which creates light, another speaker said the city needed to up its game.

Hong Kong needs a "workforce that can generate innovative solutions to problems", said Michael Enright, a business and economics professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Clark's vision includes the creation of satellite towns run to Hong Kong standards around the delta as one solution to ease local overcrowding and high property prices. It's an image that also addresses lingering concerns of Hongkongers about a post-2047 future after the city reverts to Beijing's control.

Investment life cycles are already starting to extend beyond that date, Clark said. "It is very important to have a confident and thoughtful approach to the future," he said. "Some kind of strategic vision would be useful as part of that process."


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“It is very important to have a confident and thoughtful approach to the future,” he said. “Some kind of strategic vision would be useful as part of that process.”
It is what HK's Asian competitors are already doing while HK is engrossed in its universal suffrage quagmire. In any case, it seems that all Clark is doing is spewing prescriptions based on numbers rather than the experience of being actually here. We risk further complacency when we take our wisdom from the ivory tower.
What we need is a major overhaul of our immigration policy which categorize immigrants or labourers according to education level and skill shortages. For example, Singapore import many low-skilled workers from other Asian countries to resolve their labour shortages but these workers are only there temporarily and will not obtain permanent residency. Whereas those who are highly educated will be entitled to apply for PR after having worked in Singapore for one year. What HK can do is to tied PR entitlement of new entrants according to income level (individual or family), tax payment and education level. Immigration officers need to assess whether an individual or its family can sustain in HK "beyond a subsistence level" based on those criteria. This is not discrimination and in fact such requirement already exists under our immigration law if an expat employed in HK wants to bring his/her spouse over.
No offence to those workers, but if HK and especially landlords and the tourism board are expecting that a workforce composed of construction worker and sales will help to stimulate things ...
as long as our non elected politicians are too caught up in being popular with the grassroots and have no international vision for the city HK will remain on its path to become a provincial city in China


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