Hong Kong should "import more customers" for its service industries to help the sector grow as the city's economic powerhouse, a former executive councillor says.
Franklin Lam Fan-keung warned that resisting new immigrants was counterproductive, arguing that an ageing population would hurt the city's service sector.
"In a sense, services are difficult to export," Lam told an economic seminar yesterday.
"So we should import more customers or clients in order to keep our service industry growing. We need to attract more people to come to Hong Kong to consume our services," Lam told the seminar, which was organised by the Development Forum and the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.
Lam, founder of the public-policy think tank HKGolden50, quit the Executive Council in August after he was falsely accused of profiting from insider information on flat sales.
He cited studies showing that the number of jobs in manufacturing industries had dropped globally by 17 per cent in the past decade, adding the service industry was the only sector that could create jobs in the future.
"But what we see now is that some people are anti-development," Lam said.
"We do not build this and do not welcome that. The end result is that there is no supply."
He also warned of a possible impact from the ageing population on consumption, citing studies that said a retiree would spend only 40 per cent as much as before retirement.
Yesterday's seminar was on the possible challenges faced by Hong Kong from the establishment of free-trade zones in Guangdong and Shanghai. Some 600 people attended.