The Chamber has made its submission to Chief Executive John Lee on our suggestions for measures in his first Policy Address. Following is an abridged version of the submission. You can read the full text on our website.
Reopen Hong Kong
HKGCC welcomes the relaxation of travel restrictions since the new term Government took office, including the removal of the circuit breaker system and reduction in hotel quarantine.
However, we call for the end of quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers, as well as a clear timetable for rolling back Hong Kong’s pandemic-related measures. This will remove any lingering uncertainties and enable the public and businesses to plan ahead.
We also suggest that the Government’s pandemic response should focus on the severity of cases, rather than the overall number.
Besides reopening to international travel, we also hope to see the border with the Greater Bay Area (GBA) reopened, to enable the resumption of the cross-border connections that are so important to Hong Kong businesses.
Relaunch Hong Kong
We believe in Hong Kong and are confident that we will overcome current challenges just as we have weathered previous ones. To relaunch the city after the pandemic, further efforts are needed to:
- re-energise the economy,
- shore up the confidence of local people and overseas businesses,
- create hope for the younger generation.
Regarding publicity efforts to relaunch Hong Kong, we should focus on reasserting our attractions as a business-friendly centre and promoting the SAR as a liveable city.
The Government should do its utmost to burnish Hong Kong’s reputation as a premier business destination by implementing a proper regulatory impact assessment (RIA) scheme as part of the policymaking process. The benefits of doing so are considerable, and can have positive effects that extend beyond the business sector.
The Chamber supports the Government’s “Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050” to achieve carbon neutrality. We suggest measures that focus on three areas: buildings, industrial products and transport.
Buildings account for about 90% of Hong Kong’s total electricity consumption. Promoting energy conservation and improving energy efficiency is therefore very important to accelerate decarbonisation. Our suggestions include:
- improving the carbon efficiency of both new and existing buildings,
- higher standards for energy and waste management should be required to qualify for gross floor area concessions,
- more flexibility in building regulations to allow for the use of innovative and sustainable design and construction materials.
2. Industrial products
The Government has been promoting re-industrialisation to support Hong Kong’s economic growth and reduce reliance on the services sector. We suggest:
- focusing on R&D and advanced manufacturing technologies through all-electric plants and laboratories,
- the Government should take the lead in using green industrial products in its buildings and facilities.
The transport sector contributes around 20% of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions. To reduce this, we suggest the Government should:
- create a special task force to help popularise electric vehicles,
- set out concrete objectives and timelines on the electrification of public transport and commercial vehicles,
- create a clear timeline to develop LNG bunkering in Hong Kong Port.
With our financial expertise, Hong Kong is in a strong position to reap the benefits of the global transition toward a low-carbon economy. Our proposals in this area include:
- a voluntary carbon offset market,
- a GBA Green Fund aimed at supporting SMEs with viable plans to develop green solutions and products,
- mandating ESG/sustainability reporting to deter “greenwashing.”
Hong Kong’s labour pool is under threat due to our ageing population and the recent increase in emigration. To tackle this serious issue, we propose:
- policies to ensure an adequate supply of overseas professionals and skilled labour can be brought into Hong Kong,
- further support of STEM education, and promoting the engineering, construction and infrastructure sectors to young people,
- increasing female participation in the workforce by supporting businesses that provide part-time roles, flexible working hours and work-from-home practices; and improving child-care options.
Greater Bay Area
Hong Kong companies have a keen interest in the GBA and we look forward to the reopening of the border so businesses on both sides can reap the full benefits of this important initiative. We urge further cooperation and collaboration in several areas.
Market barriers: Hong Kong companies are regarded as “foreign” enterprises in many regards. We propose that the Government engage the Mainland authorities to grant Hong Kong companies and products similar treatment as their Mainland counterparts; and encourage the recognition of Hong Kong professional qualifications.
Energy: As there is limited land available for renewable energy development in Hong Kong, decarbonising the city’s electricity supply will depend on collaboration with the GBA.
Ports: The Port of Hong Kong and its counterparts in other GBA cities have developed into an important cluster, each with its own distinctive role. However, further efforts are still required to coordinate the roles of ports in the GBA to avoid unhealthy competition.
Data: Data connectivity within the region is especially important in developing new and competitive products. Relaxation of cross-border data transmission also allows Hong Kong companies to better understand Mainland market characteristics. To enable such flows, the harmonization and relaxation of cross-jurisdictional regulatory frameworks will be required.
Land and housing
Although the issue of land and housing is highly complex, we propose a number of workable short- and long-term solutions that would ease the pressure.
- promote systemic changes within Government departments, with a reinstated Housing Committee (or similar body) to oversee all related policy matters,
- review technical considerations, such as allowing the transfer of unused plot ratios to urban areas and new towns,
- Government to provide basic infrastructure for private residential development,
- streamline processes and enhance cohesion among different departments,
- reform the Comprehensive Development Areas (CDA) system and review sites that have been idle for more than three years.
Longer term measures
- review Government renting and home ownership schemes to ensure that public housing benefits those in genuine need,
- develop Public Private Partnerships for major infrastructure projects such as the Lantau Tomorrow Vision and Northern Metropolis,
- consider green-belt development and land reclamation, with due regard to the impact on the environment.
The financial sector is a key contributor to the city’s economy and our standing as one of the world’s top international finance centres. Efforts should continue to capitalise on our unique opportunities. We suggest the Government should:
- tailor the listing criteria to allow high quality and early-stage companies to access Hong Kong’s IPO market,
- promote Hong Kong’s offshore RMB centre to international investors,
- enhance the Wealth Management Connect and Stock Connect schemes, and develop the plans for Insurance Connect,
- create a pilot initiative for a central bank digital currency,
- invest more in fintech training to nurture skilled staff,
- develop a “Nasdaq of China” to serve Chinese technology companies that are seeking to delist from U.S. bourses.
Retail and tourism
Besides lifting the quarantine requirement, Hong Kong must re-invent itself as a tourism destination amid evolving consumer expectations. To support the retail and tourism trades we should:
Enhance Hong Kong’s attractiveness
- promote local tourism based on the cultural and historical characteristics unique to Hong Kong’s 18 districts; curate coastal trails around Hong Kong’s waterfront,
- support tourism businesses to design new products focusing on culture, sports and green tourism.
Promote synergies with the GBA
- strengthen Hong Kong's role in multi-destination tourism in the GBA, and collaborate with other GBA cities in organizing cultural and sports events,
- further enhance air, train and road connectivity in the region.
Digitize business operations
- subsidize SMEs to implement electronic kiosks and adopt e-payments,
- streamline licensing application procedures for food and beverage businesses,
- implement an e-tourist pass, and create a one-stop digital information platform for visitors.
Port, transport and logistics
Besides enhancing cooperation among GBA ports, as mentioned earlier, we hope the Government will address the following to maintain Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an international port:
- protect the cabotage rule, which treats Hong Kong as part of China in shipping matters,
- invest in developing Hong Kong into a Smart Port, in line with competing ports that have more advanced facilities,
- create a Port Authority to oversee planning and development,
- create a land bank for warehouse and industrial use.
Innovation and Technology
Continued investments are necessary to augment Hong Kong’s standing as a I&T hub. We recommend the Government should:
- lead by example by using more technology in its operations to improve governance and efficiency,
- give priority to start-ups with a viable product or service when the Government is looking to fill a need,
- develop new infrastructure to promote the development of smart city and smart mobility,
- accelerate data sharing on city planning and transport operations,
- use the Northern Metropolis as a pilot for smart city transformation, with close collaboration among GBA city governments,
- expand Hong Kong’s role as a data and technology super-connector between the Mainland and the rest of the world.
To read the full text, please visit the Chamber’s website www.chamber.org.hk