Hong Kong's future lies in the Belt and Road Initiative

Updated: 2016-01-22 08:34

By Eddy Li(HK Edition)

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In delivering the 2016 Policy Address last Wednesday, the term "Belt and Road" was mentioned over 40 times by the Chief Executive in his two-hour speech. This shows that the country's new policy initiative is highly valued by the SAR government. I personally support the SAR government's move, for I believe that with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) having been successfully founded, the future development of the world economy will be shaped considerably by the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative.

As I have mentioned several times in my previous articles, Hong Kong should take part in the Belt and Road strategic initiative soon. By taking advantage of its position as a major international financial center, Hong Kong should try to join the AIIB. In so doing, we will showcase our strengths in financing as well as reinforcing Hong Kong's status as the most important and biggest offshore renminbi business center in the world. Also, underpinned by our superiority in standard testing and arbitration, Hong Kong can offer competent professional services for trade among Belt and Road countries with various rules and conditions.

The latest Policy Address has rightly touched on those two aspects where Hong Kong can play an active role. In Paragraph 43, the CE said that "Hong Kong is actively participating in the preparatory work for establishing the AIIB. We have indicated to the central government our intention to join the AIIB and provide mediation and arbitration services in Hong Kong." More importantly, the SAR government has decided to set up a Belt and Road Office. This will be responsible for taking forward related studies, coordinating work between government departments and other organizations, liaising with the mainland authorities and so on.

The newly established CE-led steering committee for the Belt and Road will decide how Hong Kong can participate in this national strategic initiative. Then, the relevant government departments can coordinate their efforts, reducing bureaucratic delays and facilitating the implementation of policies.

The policy speech has also brought good news to Hong Kong's professional services sector.

"Our professional services can fully demonstrate their strengths during the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. The government will allocate HK$200 million to support the professional services sector in enhancing exchanges and cooperation with the Belt and Road countries and other regions outside Hong Kong, and promote related publicity activities."

In the regions covered by the Belt and Road Initiative, the economies are relatively less developed. They lack sufficient knowledge of international standards in many areas.

But Hong Kong enjoys an extremely strong advantage over other competitors in providing professional services such as accounting, law, assessment of investment environment and risks, environmental consultation, architecture and engineering.

In the area of infrastructure construction, Hong Kong is also well experienced in providing professional services on the operation and management of railways, airports, harbors and electricity supply in international standards. If the related industries in Hong Kong can seize the opportunities created by the government, the new market could offer huge potential for business expansion.

I'm glad to see that the importance of communication has also been noted, with "strengthening people-to-people bonds" specifically mentioned as a topic in the Policy Address. The CE suggested that Hong Kong can utilize its dominant status in the internationalization of English to establish a platform for communication of education, culture and student exchange.

"To attract more students from the Belt and Road countries to study in Hong Kong, the government will increase the number of offers under the Targeted Scholarship Scheme, currently 10 per year, by about 100 in phases, and inject HK$1 billion into the scholarship fund for this purpose."

At the moment, the global economy faces many uncertainties. Hong Kong, being an open small economy that can be easily affected by external factors, should be more active in participating in international projects. The Belt and Road Initiative is definitely the best opportunity for the city to expand its economic sphere.

Hong Kong's future lies in the Belt and Road Initiative

(HK Edition 01/22/2016 page12)