It’s time to move on the ‘Greater Bay Area’ dream

  • If most Hongkongers are unwilling to relocate under the technology-led master plan, they need incentives in the form of homes, work and benefits
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 5:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 10:20pm

Officials are in overdrive to sell the “Greater Bay Area” dream to Hongkongers. Predictably, most people just aren’t into the idea.

A professor who conducted a new survey has found most don’t want to live there. One reason he cites is that they don’t know much about the whole master plan to develop a technology-led economic hub comprising Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities, and the government needs to do more to promote it. Really?

Of the 1,033 Hongkongers interviewed on their perceptions of the bay area project, only 80, or 7.7 per cent, said they had worked on the mainland. About 54 per cent had not set foot in a bay area city in the past year. Only one in 13 Hongkongers currently with a job in a mainland city works in the area.

Meanwhile, more than 42 per cent said a fear of losing government benefits would stop them leaving Hong Kong. The main deterrents cited to settling in bay area cities included food safety, law and order, and transport.

The joint survey was conducted by Hong Kong’s Lingnan University and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

Leave city for life in ‘Greater Bay Area’? No thanks, Hongkongers say

Most Hong Kong people are practical. If the whole development area pans out with real opportunities for business and settlement, they will go. But at the moment, it’s just a pipe dream. They may be forgiven for not sharing officials’ enthusiasm. Perhaps our senior officials will relocate their families there first – no?

There are also younger people, especially those with localist and anti-mainland sentiments, for whom anything Chinese is anathema. You know how rebellious teenagers are; the more you push them to do something, the more they resist. You want people to go? Pay them to do it. In the longer term, build up the area to make it worthwhile for Hong Kong people to make the commitment.

The government has already earmarked seed funds for business start-ups to relocate. That’s a start. Here’s another idea: allow all welfare recipients, including those on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, to keep their benefits while visiting the mainland for as long as they like, including living there permanently.

Not all will settle in bay area cities, but many will because of geographic proximity.

Their living standards will improve if they move to mainland places with lower living costs. That will also free up public rental housing units in Hong Kong to help shorten the long queue. Some may even find jobs in the new land of opportunity.