11 September 2018
The Hon Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, GBM, GBS
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Dear Chief Executive,
Policy Address Submission
I am pleased to submit herewith proposals from the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce for consideration in your forthcoming Policy Address.
We are pleased to see that the Government has made, and is continuing to make, steady progress in implementing the policy initiatives outlined in your first Policy Address. The Chamber supports all of these initiatives.
The challenges that Hong Kong is faced with still remain but we are working as a community in addressing them and the Chamber is committed to supporting the Government in this important effort. The Chief Executive’s second Policy Address provides a good opportunity to prioritise the initiatives Hong Kong must address if we are to continue making progress
In the attached submission, we set out in more detail our proposals on how Hong Kong can best meet the challenges, and take advantage of the opportunities.
We hope that you find our proposals useful and stand ready to assist and support you and your Administration in creating a positive, harmonious, and prosperous Hong Kong.
C.C. The Hon Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Chief Secretary for Administration
The Hon Paul Chan Mo-po, Financial Secretary
The Hon Edward Yau Tang-wah, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development
Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
2018/2019 Policy Address Submission
1. The Chief Executive’s 2017/2018 Policy Address contained many positive initiatives, and we are pleased that the Government has been making steady progress in fulfilling the Chief Executive’s policy agenda, which, besides enhancing the SAR’s competitiveness, is also working to promote a better life for all the people of Hong Kong. The challenges that Hong Kong is faced with still remain but we are working as a community in addressing them and the Chamber is committed to supporting the Government in this important effort. The Chief Executive’s second Policy Address provides a good opportunity to prioritise the initiatives Hong Kong must address if we are to continue making progress.
2. Prioritisation is vital for a number of important reasons:
Removing the Regulatory Bottleneck
3. If business is going to maximise its role in helping Government to achieve its vision, the cost of doing business here must be reduced, and unnecessary restrictions eased, so that businesses can get on with promoting economic growth, for the benefit of our citizens. We believe the following actions can make this possible:
Removing the Land Bottleneck
4. It is well recognised that there is a chronic shortage of land being made available for housing and commercial use in Hong Kong. There is sufficient land, but our existing land is not being put to the most effective or efficient use. As the Task Force on Land Supply said in its April 2018 Consultation Document, “land development has virtually come to a halt since 2005.”
5. The result is that prices for housing and commercial properties in Hong Kong are the highest in the world. This has a major impact on the cost of living and the quality of life of our citizens, in addition to the costs of doing business. Not only is it increasingly difficult for our citizens to find decent accommodation, and for businesses to find premises at an affordable price, there is also a serious risk of Hong Kong losing the young people who are so important to our future success as they move overseas to find better and less expensive life. In addition to defusing potential social challenges, making land available for commercial use is essential to maintaining Hong Kong’s competitiveness.
6. Accordingly, the Chamber recommends the following steps:
Removing the Labour Bottleneck
7. It is not only land in Hong Kong that is in short supply: manpower is also becoming a scarce commodity. In May-July this year, unemployment stood at 2.8 per cent - the lowest rate in 20 years. While it is impressive that Hong Kong has virtually full employment, there is a downside: the available pool of talent to meet the demand linked to our continued competitiveness is extremely limited. Labour shortages can also challenge plans to provide more housing and other important infrastructure projects that are critical to the well-being of Hong Kong and its people. These problems are likely to become even more acute with Hong Kong’s aging population, according to the projections of the Census and Statistics Department. With this in mind, the Government should give priority to the following measures:
Making Hong Kong a Smarter and More Liveable City
8. A healthy and comfortable outdoor living environment is an important component in the quality of life of our citizens, and therefore in achieving our vision for Hong Kong. Technology can also do so, by implementing the Government’s proposal to make Hong Kong a “Smart City”. In this regard, we:
9. All of these measures, carried out by both the private and public sectors, are important, not only to improve the quality of life of our citizens, but also to attract and retain talent we need to fill skills gaps, and promote our valuable tourism industry.
Greater Bay Area and “Belt and Road” Initiatives
10. Hong Kong’s geographical position, strong expertise in legal and financial services, and other strengths (including trusted and respected courts, rule of law, intellectual property rights protection, leading dispute resolution centre and freedom of information) make it perfectly positioned not only to act as the gateway to the expanding Chinese economy generally, but also to take advantages of the opportunities provided by the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and Belt and Road Initiatives in particular.
11. Hong Kong has been described as a place that is endowed with rich blessings (福 地) and has continued to enjoy a high level of growth and prosperity. We have managed to go from strength to strength because of the ability of all sectors of our community to work together towards the common goal of a better Hong Kong. It is of even greater importance today that this ability to overcome differences and willingness to collaborate be maintained and further cultivated. To that end, we all have a part to play and, as a major representative of Hong Kong’s business community, the Chamber looks forward to maintaining our close working partnership with the wider community and with the Government.
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