Since the Chief Executive delivered her last Policy Address, Hong Kong businesses have endured another extremely tough year. Few of us could have expected that the Covid-19 pandemic would turn out to be such a long drawn-out plight.
But we can be grateful for some things: Hong Kong has not been overwhelmed by Covid cases, and our vaccination programme is increasingly protecting more citizens and helping us to get on the road to recovery.
However, the outlook remains uncertain, with the Delta variant spreading rapidly in some regions. So the Chamber’s submission for this year’s Policy Address focuses on measures to help Hong Kong businesses cope in the short term, as well as longer term policies to ensure our future prosperity.
Of immediate concern to many businesses is the situation regarding travel. Our tough rules have certainly been successful in keeping Covid at bay, but the time has come to relax restrictions for fully vaccinated people. This would not only help our economy get back on track, but also encourage more people to get vaccinated.
A HKGCC survey carried out in July revealed that reduced cross-border travel was the number-one challenge facing businesses. A phased relaxation of quarantine requirements between Hong Kong and the Mainland would make sense, with business travellers first, followed by family visits and tourism.
It is especially urgent for Hong Kong to resume our connections across the Greater Bay Area (GBA), so we can capitalize on the opportunities and lay the foundation for deeper ties going forward. We would also like to see more support from the Government – such as loan interest subsidies – for SMEs, to ensure they don’t miss out.
Looking to the longer term, Hong Kong must also address its manpower bottlenecks. The Chamber’s survey revealed concern about “brain drain” adding to company’s recruitment challenges. We must find ways to ensure Hong Kong is an attractive place to live for younger people, for example through more affordable housing options.
We should also address the concerns of seasoned executives in the city, particularly their frustration at Hong Kong’s travel restrictions and the impact of this policy on our role as a global business hub.
Looking to the future, we cannot ignore the impact of climate change. In addition to the stark warnings of the recent IPCC report, this year’s fires and floods across the United States and Europe have made the impact of a warming planet very clear. We must speed up our adoption of greener ways of working and living, to protect the planet and prepare our city for future shocks.
As we make our submission to the Government, I’d like to thank our members for their contributions and expertise. We trust that the Chief Executive will listen to the business community’s concerns as she lays out her plans for Hong Kong’s emergence from the pandemic.