Hong Kong Budget 2018-2019

Hong Kong has to embrace free flow of talent or risk losing to rivals

In his budget, financial chief Paul Chan stressed developing innovation and technology with the right recruits and came up with the funds to do so. Such an approach must be taken in an increasingly competitive global environment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 1:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2018, 1:14am

Talent and innovation are the new formula for economic success nowadays; and the brightest minds with the technological know-how stand to revolutionise the future generation. In Hong Kong, officials are not unaware of the need to catch up on developing innovation and technology and to nurture more talent. While there have been dedicated agencies and admission schemes for years, there is still much room for improvement.

Sustaining the momentum built by the previous government, the new administration has given the policies a right sense of priority, as reflected in Wednesday’s budget. The financial secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po, has not just pumped more money into innovation and technology – from HK$10 billion last year to HK$50 billion – there are also more initiatives to nurture talent, such as the HK$1 billion injected into creative industries and HK$800 million in new funding for gifted education. The drive to expand training places for doctors, dentists and nurses is also good for social capital investment.

Hong Kong reboots with ‘back to the future’ budget as Paul Chan splashes HK$50 billion on hi-tech spending and HK$50 billion on goodies

Under the HK$500 million Technology Talent Scheme, a postdoctoral hub programme will be set up to provide funding support for all eligible institutions to recruit qualified staff. According to reports, each company may recruit two postdoctoral staff, each with a monthly subsidy of up to HK$32,000 for two years.

Local enterprises will also be subsidised for training staff on high-end technologies on a matching basis. Hopefully, there will be a more conducive environment to nurturing and attracting talent.

While innovation and talent go together in driving the new economy, there needs to be sufficient manpower to support economic and social progress. The government is finalising details of an enhanced admission arrangement. A comprehensive “talent list” will be made later this year to attract more foreign workers.

The labour sector has long been wary of importing foreign workers, fearing they will suppress wages and snatch jobs from locals. But that is only true if we allow foreigners to flood in indiscriminately under an open-door policy.

SCMP budget calculator: Work out how the Hong Kong budget affects you

The government has a well established importation mechanism for targeted jobs, although it is not working as efficiently as it should. A case in point is the construction industry. As long as wages and job opportunities for locals are not affected, there is no reason not to swing open our door a little wider.

The free flow of talent and ideas is an irresistible trend the world over. Whoever fails to embrace it risks losing out in an increasingly competitive global environment. Hong Kong stands to benefit by adopting a more liberal and innovative approach towards talent and manpower supply.