Staying ahead - HK must not rest on its laurels, forum told

Updated: 2016-11-04 10:13

By oswald chan in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Business leaders tell summit SAR has to do more in innovation and attract talents to remain competitive

Hong Kong cannot afford to be complacent as other major world business centers continue to make big strides ahead, while the SAR is not catching up, business leaders warned at a summit on Thursday.

Members of the business elite gave their assessments of the city's competitiveness at the 21st Hong Kong Business Summit 2016, organized by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC).

Hong Kong's recent slide in various economic competitive rankings has reignited concerns that the local economy lacks the momentum to propel economic development.

However, most of the panelists at the summit displayed cautious optimism, reckoning that Hong Kong will continue to succeed economically, although there're several areas in which it needs to pull up its socks.

One noticeable field is its weaknesses in innovation capabilities. According to the annual Global Competitiveness Index released by the Swiss-based World Economic Forum in September this year, Hong Kong fell to the ninth spot as the city's poor showing in innovation dragged down its overall competitiveness ranking.

"Hong Kong does not have to allocate fiscal resources for defense. On the other hand, both Israel and Singapore have to allocate big spending on this sector and, hence, innovation capability in these two countries can be developed arising from their spending on defense," HKGCC Chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi told the gathering.

Ng, who's also chairman and managing director of locally-listed conglomerate The Wharf (Holdings), added: "I'm not saying Hong Kong should allocate big spending on defense. My point is that Hong Kong should spend more on research and development capabilities."

According to Deloitte's latest report on global financial technology (fintech) hubs on Monday, Hong Kong was ranked as the world's fifth fintech hub, trailing behind London, Singapore, New York and the Silicon Valley. The report explained that Hong Kong performs well as a global financial center and in doing business, but poorly in global innovation.

Another target is to attract global top talent to work in Hong Kong to boost economic growth.

According to global consultancy firm Arcadis' Sustainable Cities Index released in August, the SAR trailed rivals (Singapore and Seoul) as being the third most-sustainable city in Asia (16th globally).

"The issue of livability is here as Hong Kong must make itself an attractive living city to retain and attract talents," said Nicholas Brooke, chairman of Professional Property Services.

"It's important to attract talents to work in technology departments in big conglomerates and it's also the same that the city can inspire more young people to establish their startups here," noted Allen Fung, executive director and chief executive officer of non-property businesses at Sun Hung Kai Properties - one of Hong Kong's major developers.

"The city should engage in a cultural shift toward government sponsorship as the city traditionally praises itself having a small government. It's challenging for Hong Kong in going forward," said Ronald Lee, head of private wealth management at Goldman Sachs (Asia).

Deloitte's report predicted that Singapore may become the world's top fintech hub next year as the Lion City has committed strong financial support for the promotion of the fintech industry.

Staying ahead - HK must not rest on its laurels, forum told

(HK Edition 11/04/2016 page9)