Focus on economic development will boost both Hong Kong and the country

Put politics aside and take advantage of the central government’s 13th five-year plan that offers the city a unique opportunity to grow its economy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 10:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2016, 10:48pm

Widely recognised as an economic wonder, Hong Kong boasts a long list of accolades in trade, finance, aviation, communications, tourism and the service industry. But worryingly, the success story has been overshadowed by disturbing political trends. From an increasingly dysfunctional legislature to the rise of pro-independence localism, and from the so-called civil disobedience movement of the Occupy protests in 2014 to the recent flash riot in Mong Kok, concerns are growing that our economic growth is being stifled by political extremism.

The concerns are shared by Beijing. Speaking to Hong Kong deputies to the state legislature, National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang (張德江 ) reportedly warned against politicising economic problems. Street politics, he said, would only tarnish the city’s image and scare off foreign investors. Separately, State Councillor Yang Jiechi (楊潔箎) also stressed the importance of the city’s continued prosperity, stability and development when he made a rare appearance at a session with the deputies.

That economic development should take the front seat has long been Beijing’s position. The line also resonates with the mainstream view in society, especially after the Mong Kok riot.

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There are those who believe that the economy and politics are intertwined. They argue that until the problems that gave rise to the trend have been addressed, the city cannot move forward.

Beijing has long acknowledged the fact that Hong Kong needs to address some deep-seated problems. But it believes that the way out is not to politicise the problems, but rather explore new engines for economic growth. The 13th five-year plan for 2016-2020 is an opportunity we cannot afford to lose.

However, while the focus should be on economic growth and development, the growing political divide and the underlying issues should also be addressed.

Zhang believes Hongkongers are intelligent and understand that the city’s success was built on economic achievement. Under the 13th five-year plan, Hong Kong is to play a bigger role in national development. The central government is prepared to better support the city’s growth in technology, legal and arbitration services, and tourism. If we can make use of our unique strengths to boost economic growth and contribute to national development, it will be a win-win situation for both the city and the country.