As the city marks 25 years since the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR, it is a natural time to look back over events of the past quarter-century. On Page 38, you can read a history of the Chamber and the city during this time period. It has certainly been a rollercoaster, with regional and global financial crises, SARS, and now the battle to deal with Covid-19.
We all know that Hong Kong has emerged from past crises stronger than ever. It is also worth remembering that there have been many more good times than bad since the handover. For example, after the short-lived panic of SARS in 2003, the city bounced back remarkably strongly, helped by a high-profile campaign by HKGCC to share that Hong Kong was “back in business.”
The next several years were a boom time, with many new companies launching, thousands of jobs being created and the stock markets soaring. The global financial crash put an end to this positive streak. However, Hong Kong again recovered better than many other economies that remained in the doldrums for years.
As a member of HKGCC over the years, I have seen how the Chamber has constantly worked on behalf of the business community, through good times and bad. Throughout the acute difficulties of the past few years, for example, the Chamber has successfully urged the Government to roll out measures including the Employment Support Scheme and enhancements to loans for SMEs.
Much of Hong Kong’s growth over the past 25 years has been due to our ties with the Mainland, and the Chamber has worked hard to make sure members are aware of the opportunities. More than 20 years ago, we produced a very well-received report on the impact of China’s imminent entry to the WTO. The signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with the Mainland, first proposed by HKGCC, was a very important step in enabling local businesses to access the new opportunities. Recently, we have helped members access the developments relating to the Greater Bay Area initiative.
A recent success has been the two-tier profits tax. This not only benefits many Hong Kong companies, but has also helped the city to remain competitive in terms of corporate tax.
This Chamber is also dedicated to improving the lives of all Hong Kong people. Two decades ago, we successfully pushed for action across the Pearl River Delta to tackle the problem of air pollution, which was much worse at that time. We also called for improvements to the city’s harbourfront. Today, the fruits of this campaign can be seen in the creation of open spaces on both sides of Victoria Harbour for local residents to exercise and relax.
Right now, times are still tough for many businesses due to the travel restrictions. We hope that this policy will be reversed soon: we know that our economy can bounce back, and we are ready for the good times to return once the borders are open once again.