Incentives needed to drive Greater Bay Area plan, Tencent chairman tells Hong Kong seminar
Pony Ma points to need for tax and immigration concessions to ensure Beijing’s master plan for Pearl River Delta can succeed
Business leaders and experts at a high-powered economic seminar have called for preferential policies and other incentives to create a world-class technology hub through the ambitious Greater Bay Area project to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province.
Pony Ma Huateng, founder and chairman of Chinese internet giant Tencent, urged mainland authorities to attract entrepreneurs by easing tax rules for people working in the planned global innovation hub.
“The Bay Area can be the window for Chinese companies to go international, and for overseas companies to enter the mainland market, but the government must show its support,” Ma said.
The tech boss was speaking on Tuesday at a brainstorming forum in Hong Kong on developing the Greater Bay Area, which is one of Beijing’s priorities.
“I hope the government can help to make it easier for people to go in and out of the area, perhaps issuing ‘green cards’ to facilitate the movement of technology experts,“ Ma said.
“Also, for tax purposes, I hope that people will not be restricted by a maximum stay of 180 days in China when they have to pay mainland tax. In terms of attracting technology experts, if they have to pay mainland tax, that will be very inconvenient.”
The mainland’s personal income tax rate is capped at 45 per cent, compared with 15 per cent in Hong Kong.
“The Greater Bay Area already holds several good cards for developing technology. They are software, hardware and service,” Ma said, citing a long list of successful companies including drone maker DJI, smartphone manufacturer Huawei and Tencent itself.
Hong Kong’s cluster of reputed universities was already an advantage, he added, but the question was how to hold on to the talent they were producing.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po made a case at the forum for Hong Kong to play a “super- connector” role to help the region link up with the rest of the world, as the city was looking at the Greater Bay Area as “the next economic growth engine”.
“The Greater Bay Area carries a lot of potential for Kong Kong,” Chan said. “As an international financial centre, Hong Kong offers a freer market than mainland cities. Our sound legal system and our strong global connections to the rest of the world enable Hong Kong to play a super-connector role.”
Economist Fan Gang, who is president of the China Development Institute, suggested the official name, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, should be changed to reflect the true scope of the project.
“We suggest we call it ‘China’s Great Bay Area’. This is also precise because China does not have a bigger bay area, and it will be bigger than all other bay areas in the world in the near future,” he said.
Sean Randolph, senior director at an American think tank involved in the San Francisco Bay Area, said China’s Bay Area could become the dominant hub of global tech firms.
The event was attended by former Hong Kong chief executive and now elder statesman Tung Chee-hwa, Guangdong Vice-governor Yuan Baocheng and Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong Vai Tac.
It was aimed at sharing ideas among technology companies, entrepreneurs, government officials, academics and other experts on how best to push forward the Greater Bay Area plan.
Additional reporting by Amanda Lee