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Paul Chan

Finance chief raises possibility of more people living in ‘Greater Bay Area’ and commuting to Hong Kong

Affordable property prices and convenient transport cited following high-profile visit to Pearl River Delta region over the border

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 April, 2017, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 10:39am

Hong Kong’s finance chief suggested that living in the “Greater Bay Area”, where property prices are much cheaper than those in the city, and commuting to Hong Kong for work was an option many people could consider.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po made the remarks following a high-profile visit to the area led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

But he did not specify whether he meant Hongkongers should move to the area to take advantage of its relatively low property prices or whether mainlanders could use it as a base and commute daily to the city for work.

Appearing on a Commercial Radio programme on Sunday, Chan said transportation in the area would become more convenient.

“Wages have in fact increased sharply [on the mainland]. Will Hong Kong teenagers or middle-management personnel be interested in working for mainland companies that offer relatively good prospects?” he asked.

In some areas, it’s just one tenth or one eighth the property prices in Hong Kong
Paul Chan, financial secretary

“If we are to look at this with a long-term view, the property prices there are just a fraction of those in Hong Kong. In some areas, it’s just one tenth or one eighth the prices in Hong Kong.”

He then addressed whether people would consider living there and commuting to the city to work.

“This can be explored. These are some of the ideas raised when we met the officials there,” he said.

Chan was among a delegation of senior officials and advisers who visited the area last week. Members looked at how best to position Hong Kong in Beijing’s integration scheme for the Pearl River Delta region.

The plan encompasses a total area of 56,000 sq km and more than 66 million people. It was first proposed by Guangdong officials several years ago, but grew into a national strategic project after Premier Li Keqiang endorsed it in his annual work report last month.

Chan said Hong Kong still had an edge over other cities in the region, but it had to stay alert and ponder how to make the best use of its advantages. He encouraged Hongkongers to spend a weekend in the region exploring it.

He noted that some of his friends had sold their flats in expensive Hong Kong urban areas and instead bought properties in the suburbs. With extra money in hand, he added, those friends could afford to buy properties on the mainland.

“They spend most of their time there and travel around the region. That’s very convenient,” he said. “Some people would spend a night in Enping city and enjoy the hot spring. You don’t need to go far to Japan.”

Meanwhile, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung wrote on his blog that Hong Kong had met every condition to become the financial centre of the “Greater Bay Area”.

Once the bridge to Zhuhai and Macau and the high-speed rail linking Hong Kong to Guangzhou were open, Chan said, it would only take up to three hours to go anywhere in the region.

“Take financing for innovation and technology companies as an example, we can provide a specialised platform for them to go public,” he said.