Hong Kong urgently needs a regulatory overhaul to preserve its competitive edge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 9:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 10:57pm

I have worked for many years on a wide range of assignments in the areas of real-estate development, heritage conservation, the environment, sustainability and liveability (including improving quality of life for the elderly).

It has become apparent that there is a requirement for an urgent review of the regulatory arrangements and frameworks which govern all aspects of land use planning (including zoning), land ownership, tenure and administration (including premium assessment), and all aspects of current building regulations. What also must be reviewed is their impact on and integration with the many other institutional arrangements and regulations that are required to govern and maintain the competitiveness of a city such as Hong Kong.

Many regulations are out of date and should either be withdrawn or rewritten; others do not encourage or, worse, stand in the way of the introduction and adoption of new business models or technologies.

Such a review needs to be cross-bureau and cross-department, and include not only ordinances, but also practice notes and administrative guidelines, many of which were introduced simply to solve challenges presented by former regulations and practices – leading to confusion and complexity, and an unwillingness to pursue compliance for the fear of making difficult decisions as to what is really correct.

I appreciate such a review would take years to complete and requires resources not currently available within government.

However, if no action is taken, the situation, which is slowing down business and therefore affecting Hong Kong’s competitiveness, will only get worse.

Financial support for the setting up of a new, properly staffed “regulatory review office” under a senior official (perhaps a deputy chief secretary) is required, plus funding which would allow the involvement of suitably qualified private sector consultants to assist with the many particular technicalities and issues which will need to be considered.

Given that 2017 was another year of high government revenues, 2018 would be an excellent year to start the process, establish the regulatory review office and take the first steps to ensuring that Hong Kong regains its reputation as a competitive, exciting, efficient, forward looking and adaptable city.

Margaret Brooke, Central