Motion on “Developing the Economy and Improving People’s Livelihood” (2015.11.26)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, I hope there will be more reasonable people in our society. I am not referring to Mr Steven HO but the woman whose bag of tofu was dropped when she was bumped into by Mr HO, for the woman had only asked Mr HO to pay her eight dollars. (Laughter) Certainly, Mr Steven HO is also a rational and reasonable man, and he has an advantage which I do not have, that is, he is young. I believe that in the future, the public will definitely appreciate people who are energetic and reasonable.

President, in the past few years, Hong Kong society, including the Legislative Council, has focused on the discussion on constitutional reform, and economic and livelihood issues might have been neglected inevitably. Moreover, some people think that they can win the support of the people by adopting political tactics that hinder the administration of the Government. As a result, when places around the world all work hard to embark on reform to meet the challenges in the new century, society and the legislature of Hong Kong, a cosmopolitan city, have regrettably been caught in a “politically-frozen” state, where we can only mark time or even retrogress.

Actually, I have pointed out repeatedly in the past few years that the competitiveness of Hong Kong has come to a standstill and the situation is worrying. Today, it is obvious that Hong Kong’s competitiveness has declined significantly. Worse still, in view of the considerable slowdown of the Mainland economy, the prospect of the Hong Kong economy is quite pessimistic in the next few years. Hence, I am very grateful to Mr CHAN Hak-kan for proposing the motion today, for it reminds Members that reform is sorely needed, particularly in economy and people’s livelihood. The row over the constitutional reform has come to an end, and the constitutional reform will not be activated again in the next eight to 10 years. This is the right timing for us to put aside political disputes and to work hard on economic development and people’s livelihood.

In my view, economic development and improvement of people’s livelihood go hand in hand, and they are dispensable. Economic development will naturally bring about the creation of additional job opportunities and accumulation of wealth in society, which in turn will give the Government the ability to provide more assistance to the disadvantaged and enhance the quality of life of the people as a whole. Affluent countries in Europe and the United States have all along followed this principle to protect the livelihood of their nationals. In fact, there is a pressing need for Hong Kong to reform its industries, for since the northward relocation of industries to the Mainland in the 1980s, Hong Kong has relied on the pillar industries of finance, service, trade, real estate and logistics, and so on. In the event of decline of these industries, Hong Kong will be in difficulty.

In fact, overseas countries have long since forecast that development in innovation and technology will bring about tremendous changes in industries. For this reason, they have been making constant changes and reforms in industries and bringing about a new round of industrial revolution. For instance, the Reindustrialization is proposed in the United States and the “Industry 4.0” is introduced in Germany, and so on. Experts project that in the next eight to 10 years, the world as a whole will undergo dynastic changes. If Hong Kong continues to stay on the sideline, I wonder what will be the fate of our next generation. Fortunately, the Innovation and Technology Bureau has now been set up. I hope that the Bureau will not only promote the development of new technology but also lead the development of the innovation and technology industries by attracting talents, capital and enterprises from the Mainland and overseas to come to Hong Kong, thereby strengthening the local innovation and technology industries. However, I believe all departments must make an effort in collaboration to enable these duties to be satisfactorily fulfilled. Some people worry that the Bureau cannot make any achievement, yet I trust that if the community can join hands and offer advice and proposals instead off dragging its feet, it will definitely achieve success.

Moreover, the development of the innovation and technology industry will bring about opportunities of re-industrialization in Hong Kong. In the past, the decline in industries in Hong Kong was mainly attributed to the constant spiral in rent and salaries, and the excessively high production costs. Now, with the use of intelligent production methods, information technology and the “Internet of Things” management approach, production effectiveness can be significantly enhanced and products can be customized to better suit the needs of consumers. As such, production cost may not necessarily be a determinant. If this type of industries return to Hong Kong, they will address the imbalanced distribution of industries in Hong Kong on the one hand and create more quality job openings for different classes on the other.

I would like to turn to headquarters economy now. At my repeated suggestion, the Government has started to pay attention to this issue. It has decided to promote Hong Kong’s development into a corporate treasury centre to attract more companies to set up their headquarters here and create more quality job opportunities. I know that the Invest Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council are working on this, yet the support of policies and tax concession is required if the authorities really want to make achievements. Some people may take exception to this view, for they consider the offer of tax concession will affect the tax regime of Hong Kong. However, if investors enjoying the concession are required to employ a specified number of Hongkongers, this will immediately bring about a considerable number of quality openings for young people. I would say that the gains will outstrip the cost, and I hope the Government will consider this proposal seriously.

Lastly, I must talk about the finance industry. Hong Kong is an international financial centre, where the securities, banking and insurance industries as the pillars of Hong Kong economy has been making outstanding development in the past. However, with the successive occurrence of the financial crisis and the financial tsunami, the Government has tightened the regulation over financial institutions. We all understand that proper regulation is necessary, yet excessively stringent regulation will stifle the finance industry and make its operation increasingly difficult. In fact, excessively stringent regulation is a means employed by the regulatory authority for self-protection. By confining the scope of operation of the financial industries, the chances of the industries making mistakes will be reduced and the regulator will not have to bear any responsibility. However, this practice will de facto strangle the financial industries’ vigour in development. I hope the Government will understand that the current situation is already very difficult. The Government should appropriately relax the regulation on the securities, banking and insurance industries so as to remove the hurdles and restrictions on development of these industries. The authorities should give due regard to the development of the industries in imposing regulation, so that the finance industry in Hong Kong can attain an appropriate balance.

I so submit.

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