As the Chamber’s new Chairman, the first thing I would like to do is to thank members for their support as I take on this exciting and challenging role. Representing the interests of the business community in Hong Kong is a great honour as well as a huge responsibility. I’d also like to extend my thanks to Stephen Ng for all his hard work as Chairman over the past two years. It has been a pleasure serving as his deputy and I have learned a great deal from him.
I am taking up the chairmanship at a good time for Hong Kong’s economy, as our GDP grew 4.7% in the first quarter of the year. We expect this positive environment will continue and even accelerate if we can leverage the opportunities that are opening up.
Many of these opportunities are emerging as a result of technological advancements and economic development around the region. Chinese technology companies in particular are fast becoming market leaders and are cutting edge in the fields of AI, fintech and smart retailing.
Businesses in Hong Kong are ideally placed to capitalize on these developments, particularly within the Greater Bay Area (GBA). The Chamber’s regular business missions to the GBA have shown that the initiative is already having an impact, as cities in the GBA, some of which are hubs for technology and advanced manufacturing, are all very eager to explore collaboration opportunities with their neighbours.
The SAR Government recently announced that a Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area Development Office will be set up. This office will liaise with businesses and trade organizations, as well as the various government bureaus, to co-ordinate their involvement in the plan. Your Chamber will take advantage of this new office and continue to reflect your views and concerns on the initiative. I will make sure that the interests of the Hong Kong business community are heard as this crucial scheme continues to develop.
This is not to say that we are only focused on the Mainland. Far from it: Hong Kong has been a centre for global trade for centuries and we will continue to be a hub for international commerce and to seek new markets.
There is no doubt that the growth of Asia has been a defining characteristic of the 21st century so far. But Hong Kong now has many competitors snapping at our heels, and we must work harder to stay ahead. Key to that is tackling some of the outdated legislation that is slowing us down. I intend to push this issue whenever possible, so Hong Kong companies can stop wasting their time with red tape and focus on doing business.
There are plenty of other challenges. Our workforce started shrinking last month, further exacerbating the acute labour shortage, with the unemployment rate falling to its lowest point in over 20 years at 2.8% in April. Land and housing shortages are another urgent problem that we need to find solutions to quickly. These are all complex and emotional issues which we cannot afford to put off addressing any longer. We need to grasp the nettle if we want to ride on the exciting developments that are taking place around the region and the world during this economic upswing.