An ageing population and increasing competition from GBA cities are putting further pressure on Hong Kong in the global race for talent. At a seminar on 20 October, Stephen Ching, Associate Professor at HKU Business School, and KC Kwok, CEO at the Hong Kong Academy of Finance, discussed the current manpower situation in the city and how it is affecting businesses. Hong Kong ranks at number 15 in the IMD World Talent Ranking 2020 and number six in the INSEAD Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2020. The speakers noted that while these figures show Hong Kong remains an attractive location, the city has slipped down the rankings in the past year. Another notable trend in Hong Kong is declining enrollment in sub-degree programmes, meaning that young people are entering the workforce earlier. More non-local graduates are also remaining in Hong Kong to work under the IANG Scheme. The speakers also discussed some of the measures in the recent Policy Address that aim to nurture talent and youth development, and facilitate people flow with the Mainland GBA cities.
Even before the pandemic, there had been a debate over whether Hong Kong’s low tax rates and simple tax regime were still relevant in a world that has undergone considerable change. In addition, an ageing population are expected to push up public expenditure, and the impact of Covid-19 has only served to exacerbate these issues. At a seminar on 20 September, Stephen Chiu, Associate Professor of Economics at HKU Business School, and Andrew Fennell, Lead Analyst for China and Hong Kong at Fitch Ratings, discussed the Government’s revenue and investment, and the impact of the collapse of tourism and Hong Kong’s fiscal buffers on the city’s credit rating outlook. The speakers also discussed some feasible suggestions to maintain the long-term fiscal sustainability of Hong Kong, such as Singapore’s policy of borrowing to invest.
Before the pandemic, there were already calls in Hong Kong to rethink its free-market capitalism model because of perceived failings such as unequal wealth distribution and environmental damage. For supporters of small government and open markets, Covid-19 is not only a health crisis but a test of such economic thesis as governments around the world have embarked on unprecedented spending to prop up businesses and households. At a webinar on 17 August, Zhiwu Chen, Chair Professor of Finance at HKU Business School, and Nick Sallnow-Smith, former Chairman of the Lion Rock Institute Hong Kong, shed lights on whether government interventions are able to address various social and economic problems surrounding the city, and Hong Kong’s pro-market approach to the economy is still relevant in the current global context.
Amidst the challenges brought on by the pandemic, social unrest and geopolitical tensions, how to revitalize the Hong Kong economy has been a question on the table. At a seminar on 13 July, Heiwei Tang, Professor of Economics at the University of Hong Kong, and Michael Spencer, Chief Economist and Head of Research, Asia Pacific at Deutsche Bank, shed lights on the way forward for Hong Kong if it were to remain relevant and competitive in a post-covid landscape. As well as an ageing population, Hong Kong could also face a hollowing of its middle class due to the shrinking of three of our four pillar industries. To avoid being left behind, the city needed to broaden its horizons through greater investment in R&D. The speakers also discussed the opening of the border with the Mainland over the next few decades, but Hong Kong will need to look beyond its traditional strengths if it was to capitalize on the GBA opportunities. This session was the first in a series of events co-organized with the HKU Business School to consider some of the more pressing issues faced in the city.
Since Hong Kong’s COVID-19 vaccination programme began in February, vaccine hesitancy has been a key contributor to our subpar take-up rate. At a talk on 12 July, a panel of doctors -- Dr Charas Yeu-theng Ong, Dr Wendy Wan-ching Lo Wong, Dr Andrew Tin-yau Wong and Dr David Tzit-yuen Lam -- explained in more detail about the two types of vaccine available in Hong Kong, and how citizens can choose the most suitable vaccine.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our lives, but one silver lining is that it has accelerated the adoption of technology. At a webinar on 9 July, Ringo Ng, Managing Director at HKT Consumer Group, discussed the development of telemedicine in Hong Kong, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing service providers in this area. He also explained how DrGo, a HKT digital platform, leverages new technology to deliver healthcare and medical treatment.
Following Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s 2021-2022 Budget Speech to the Legislative Council in late February, a panel of experts discussed his plans at a webinar on 9 March. Louis Kuijs, Head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics; Heiwai Tang, Professor of Economics at the University of Hong Kong; Tony Miller, Chairman of the Chamber's Economic Policy Committee; and Alice Leung, Chairman of the Chamber's Taxation Committee, shared their views and insights on the Government’s latest Budget, which was delivered amid unprecedented economic conditions for Hong Kong. The speakers also discussed how the Government could bolster public finances after the recent surge in spending to fight the effects of the coronavirus, and take a more active role to achieving economic transformation.
Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are the digital form of a nation's currency -- backed and issued by a central monetary authority -- which can be used to facilitate transactions in an increasingly digitalised world. CBDCs are not widely available yet, but Mainland China is currently piloting a “digital yuan,” and other central banks around the world are considering creating their own digital currencies. This global shift is largely driven by the recognition that CBDCs have the potential to not only transform payments, but also promote financial inclusion and address the economic challenges brought on by Covid-19.
At a webinar on 27 January, Colin Pou, Executive Director (Financial Infrastructure) at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, introduced Project Inthanon-LionRock, a joint initiative between the HKMA and the Bank of Thailand, which is currently at the second stage of development. Pou explained the potential of Inthanon-LionRock to enable the use of CBDCs for wholesale and cross-border payments.
In the panel discussion that followed, Daniel Chan, Head of Blockchain Innovation Lab at FORMS HK; Charles d'Haussy, Director of ConsenSys; and Benedicte Nolens, Head of the Innovation Hub at the Bank for International Settlements, discussed the future of CBDCs, including their global and local development, design technology, opportunities and challenges, and impact on businesses. The panelists also shared their insights on how businesses can prepare for the onset of CBDCs by building capacity in areas including talent, infrastructure and compliance.
Members of the Government Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccination Programme Dr Leung Pak-yin, and Dr Tsang Ho-fai Thomas, explained how the vaccination programme would be rolled out and answered dozens of questions from the audience during a Chamber webinar on 25 January. Organized by HKGCC and PRPA, the webinar was followed by a press conference with HKGCC CEO George Leung. Reporters were eager understand the challenges of rolling out the scheme and its importance to safeguard the community and also the economy.
At a webinar on 13 January, Nancy Ip, the Vice-President for Research and Development and The Morningside Professor of Life Science at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, discussed the latest findings in Alzheimer’s research and new approaches for Alzheimer’s drug development. Ip, a world-renowned neuroscientist, also explained the genetic risk factors of the disease among Chinese people.