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CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong must seek ways to build on its advantages

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 2:22am

Constructive criticism is not always easy to take, especially for a place as successful as Hong Kong. Yet, if we ignore our critics, we miss the opportunity to identify weaknesses and make improvements. The claim by the nation's third most important political figure and Beijing's point man for our city, Zhang Dejiang , that we are losing our competitive edge, therefore should not be brushed aside. His observation is a reminder that we risk falling behind if we avoid problems and fail to regularly assess and hone strengths.

The focus of Zhang's concern was the economy, singled out as being the driver of development and improving livelihoods. A lack of attention to that reality meant Hong Kong was losing out to regional competitors and would continue to do so to its detriment unless distractions were set aside, he warned. It is a matter of debate whether our city has lost its edge. The World Economic Forum's annual competitiveness survey shows otherwise, while our real effective exchange rate is markedly lower than that for most of our Asian neighbours. Hong Kong is clearly still a good place to invest and do business.

But Hong Kong also has a maturing economy and a fast-ageing population. High rents and property prices increase business risks. Air pollution, a lack of international school places and cramped living conditions deter potential overseas talent. The gap between rich and poor is ever-widening and there is concern in some quarters that politicking by interest groups is holding up progress.

Our city has a proud record of innovating and adapting. In a mere two decades, it transformed itself from a manufacturing powerhouse for textiles, electronics and toys into a world-class financial centre, all the while using proximity to mainland China to its every advantage. Innovation and creativity still abound, although at a low level and not as much is as homegrown as would be expected. To our advantage, we have a government that is largely hands-off when it comes to business, a sturdy legal framework, strong connections to international financial markets and state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Our strengths are not cause to ignore problems. Nor is having pulled through regional and global economic crises cause to rest on our laurels. We have to always be searching for ways to shore up and build on our competitive advantages. That requires a committed and determined leadership that has wide support. Zhang has provided a timely wake-up call.

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johnyuan
Sure Hong Kong has many advantages ranging from good infrastructure including a legal system and an international appeal that not only money can bye. But how many local people or even foreigners can tap into those advantages? What perhaps the third highest ranking in the CCP not saying about Hong Kong losing its competitive edge is the cause in refrain from offending the establishment who dominates Hong Kong. In fact Hong Kong has lost its competitiveness within Hong Kong itself with the omnipotent extension of conglomerates into every business opportunities. If Hong Kong doesn’t put a cap on how extensive conglomerates can rub away equal opportunity for all, truly by another extension Hong Kong will inevitably fall behind in global competition. You think just a handful individuals is sufficient to compete?
clc2
Quote: To our advantage, we have a government that is largely hands-off when it comes to business, a sturdy legal framework, strong connections to international financial markets and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Hmm.
-- "Hands off" excepting the two biggest things in the economy -- property development and the ports.
-- The legal system is less English oriented, which makes it less attractive as a regional HQ or global legal center. Was closing so many English language schools and emphasizing "Mother Tongue" a good idea? Does Shanghai now surpass HK in English ability?
-- The HK financial market has underwritten IPOs for too many "iffy" mainland firms and the city's accountants have gone along, joyously collecting fees. In the long term, will anyone be able to distinguish among the HK, SH and Shenzhen markets in terms of probity?
-- Many people, even if they weren't British, found the painstaking de-Britishing of HK at the time of the "return," by both individuals and the new government, to be gauche. Sir Donald?
-- Many business people in HK have been occupied with kowtowing to the CCP, which must make foreigners nervous about their affairs being kept private from the cadres. NO ONE can overlook what Tom consented to regarding Skype. That about phones & email?
And what's HK's role to be when China eventually loses the CCP? What then? A real fondness for the city by foreigners has been a factor in its success. Does this fondness remain?

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