Worst time in 20 years for Hong Kong economy, financial secretary John Tsang says
Tsang says he agrees with tycoon Li Ka-shing’s dire assessment of city’s economy
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah addressed a range of issues at the Post’s latest Redefining Hong Kong Debate Series forum on Thursday, ranging from the city’s economic outlook to the One Belt, One Road trade initiative, but he was reluctant to comment on political conflicts. Here we recap his main points of the day.
Q: You mentioned in the budget that Hong Kong has been consumed by social conflicts. What are your visions for tackling these conflicts?
Tsang: The budget was a while ago now, and I usually forget about it once it is passed, and start thinking about what we are going to do next year. We have already started thinking about next year’s budget.
Q: What is your view on the city’s economic outlook for the year?
A: As Li Ka-shing mentioned yesterday, this is probably the worst time in 20 years for Hong Kong. I tend to agree with him, and I’ve been saying that for some time.
Q: What are the options the government is looking at for broadening the city’s tax base?
A: We are always examining that, but we also know quite well that raising taxes is sort of like political suicide in any society ... It is very difficult to ask the community to contribute more when you have a surplus ... In any case there is never a good time to raise taxes.
Q: What comment do you have on difficulties reported by firms in opening a corporate bank account in the past two years?
A: Banks have a responsibility to exercise due diligence, but I think they should also maintain some level of flexibility in the way they deal with people so they can achieve inclusiveness and ease of doing business.
Q: What is your view on the tangible benefits for Hong Kong of the One Belt, One Road initiative?
A: The initiative is a visionary strategy. This is not something that is going to materialise into monetary returns overnight. It’s going to take some time. It’s a process that requires a great deal of coordination. There is no clear identification of specific ways ahead, so we are trying to identify our own ways. Tomorrow (Friday) I am going to Beijing for the first annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.