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Carrie Lam

Task force in works to help Hong Kong businesses in mainland China

But veteran commentator claims such bodies have little effect on policymaking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 10:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 11:10pm

An all-new task force comprising heavyweights from Hong Kong’s industrial sector and business chambers will be set up by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, a source familiar with the arrangement has said.

The advisory body, likely to be chaired by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah, is to generate ideas to help firms overcome obstacles when doing business on the mainland, particularly in the nearby Pearl River Delta.

But a veteran political analyst poured cold water on this, the third such group to form in a month, and other bodies. He claimed gathering opinions would have little effect on actual policymaking.

On Wednesday, Lam greeted 11 members of a financial leaders’ forum before its inaugural meeting.

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Formed in August, the group came about from Lam’s election manifesto. Comprising mostly bankers and market regulator chiefs, its members were tasked with advising Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po on policy.

The forum was held a day after a 30-strong Task Force on Land Supply was established to earmark sites suitable for housing development. A citywide shortage of affordable housing is one of the sternest challenges confronting Lam.

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A source with close knowledge of the third advisory body said it would collect views on how to better help the industrial sector.

Members would likely include the heads of business chambers and well-known industrialists.

The body’s primary function, the source suggested, was to help Hong Kong owners of mainland factories sustain and grow their business as well as align their interests with the Greater Bay Area development plan announced in Beijing’s 13th five-year plan.

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Under the national blueprint, a cluster of cities in the Pearl River Delta – namely Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou, among others – is to integrate further. Businesses in the region are racing to resolve logistical, manpower and legal issues.

Local industrialists owning factories over the border have faced upgrade challenges in the region the past few years. A source said the city’s support was vital as 60 per cent of some 35,000 Hong Kong factories either needed help to reinvent their business models or lacked successors.

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In recent years, the government floated the idea of using automation and robots to boost production. The move sparked hope that some local industries that thrived in the 1970, such as watch- and clockmakers as well as garment manufacturers, could be revived with innovative technology.

The advisory body could be gazetted as early as Friday, and unveiled in the days to come.

How much of their advice really translates into actual policies?
Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu

Two more bodies could be in the pipeline: a coordinating committee for tourism, and another for children’s rights. Both were listed in Lam’s election platform.

But political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the setting up of such bodies was no more than pouring old wine into a new bottle.

“Of course I hope they achieve their intended purpose, but if you look at the previous administrations under Leung Chun-ying and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, these bodies already existed,” he claimed.

“You can invite people from all walks of life to come on board these committees, and portray an image of the government being willing to listen. But how much of their advice really translates into actual policies?”

People would still accept invitations to serve on the bodies, he added, claiming a position boosted one’s credibility.

The Home Affairs Bureau identified over 470 statutory and advisory bodies that solicit opinions from 4,100 members of the public.

Additional reporting by Denise Tsang