Regina Ip's think tank to examine Hong Kong's competitiveness amid slow-growth forecasts

As government forecasts unprecedented fourth year of slow growth, think tank chaired by Regina Ip will look into city's competitiveness

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 May, 2015, 5:58am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 May, 2015, 7:32pm

A think tank has launched a 15-month study of Hong Kong's competitiveness following a forecast that economic growth could be as low as 1 to 3 per cent this year - which would be the first time the city has seen four consecutive years of growth slower than 3 per cent since 1962.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, lawmaker and chairwoman of the think tank Savantas Policy Institute, said that from 1962 to 2011, there were only five times when the city's annual economic growth was lower than 3 per cent for two consecutive years.

"But since 2012, for the first time in its history, Hong Kong's economic growth was lower than 3 per cent for three years in a row," she said. The government had earlier forecast a GDP growth of 1 to 3 per cent this year.

Ip said no think tank or government department had ever done a detailed study into the city's competitiveness, which she said would be useful for the city to find its way forward.

"If we look at the financial secretary's budget speech, when the government talks about the city's competitiveness, it only focuses on the freedom of competition. But competitiveness goes beyond that," she said.

Ip's think tank has invited 27 experts in industries including tourism, information technology, innovation, finance, logistics and aviation to form a steering committee to advise on the study.

The study will be led by Lingnan University's economics professor Ho Lok-sang and his research team at the university.

The study will look at how different industries are performing and where opportunities lie.

The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies - a Beijing-backed think tank headed by former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Chen Zuoer - will also take part in the study.

"I think how to use innovation and technology to galvanise our economic growth is something we need to study harder," Ip said.

"Some countries rely on original innovation, or primary innovation, whereas other players like China are very good at making use of secondary innovation to stimulate economic growth. Hong Kong needs to find its own innovation model."

Anthony Lau, executive chairman of Pacific Air and a member of the study's steering committee, said the city needs a third runway to stay competitive.

"Some 40 per cent of Hong Kong's external trade uses air transportation. We need the third runway yesterday rather than today," he said.

Another study adviser, Ambrose Linn, chief executive of the Hong Kong Construction Materials Association, said he is concerned about escalating costs of construction materials and hoped to find a way to more effectively control them.