More surprises likely for Hong Kong people after a dramatic 2016

Updated: 2016-12-28 08:57

By William So(HK Edition)

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The past several months were undoubtedly eventful. We witnessed many big political events - from the Brexit vote in Britain in June, to the more recent Donald Trump victory in the US presidential election and the disqualification of two young legislators-elect in our city - all of which were unimaginable a few years ago.

Who would have expected the British leaving their European friends, given their close relationship for decades, both economically and socially? Who would have believed Donald Trump, a businessman with six business bankruptcy records and no experience in politics, could possibly outrun Hillary Clinton, a former member of the US Senate, first lady and secretary of state, and become the next US president? And perhaps more importantly to Hong Kong people, who would have possibly anticipated the disqualification of some lawmakers-elect?

More surprises likely for Hong Kong people after a dramatic 2016

But these have all happened this year; and it is likely that we will be seeing more such unusual events in 2017, a year full of elections around the globe. So we simply have to get accustomed to abnormality nowadays. Take US President Barack Obama for example; he was as surprised as we were the moment Donald Trump's victory was confirmed. But as he commented, "the sun will rise in the morning". So, the message here is: Let the past be the past. We need to move on, focus on what we are doing, and plan for the future.

Political tensions are running high now in our city after the recent interpretation of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) and the disqualification of two legislators-elect. Some said Hong Kong's judicial independence is at risk; while others argued that the NPCSC has the power to do so, as provided by the Basic Law itself.

I am not here to discuss which argument is correct and which is not. We certainly enjoy freedom to express our opinions. But what I would like to emphasize here is that all of these are but episodes in our lives. Businesses will run as usual. We should turn our attention back to the challenges we are now facing, rather than endangering the long-term prosperity of the city.

What are we facing? Let's begin with the recent US election and possible US interest-rate hikes in the next year. As a small and open economy, Hong Kong is vulnerable to many of these exogenous risks as they are in fact beyond our control. Trump's victory is no doubt a threat to many of the Asian economies given his strong protectionist mindset and aggressive bias against globalization. In the meantime, due to our currency peg, further US interest-rate hikes in 2017 will ultimately translate into higher rate in the city too, existing home owners or potential buyers would face additional burden. Coupled with the new round of housing market tightening, the risk of an economic slowdown should not be overlooked as property-related sectors play a major role in our economy.

So given the challenges we face, where does our future lie?

I believe many agree that for the next decades, the future economic development of the SAR will heavily intertwine with that of the Chinese mainland. Take the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative as one example, as the mainland seeks to promote economic cooperation among various markets via the initiative, the SAR can actually play many roles other than being the bridge between the mainland and the rest of the world. Our close relationship with the mainland, combined with the strengths and specialties that we have developed so far, would for sure give us a head start providing the necessary services and expertise for these projects.

The main problem here, however, is that the idea of B&R remains a puzzle for many of us. What is the concept of the B&R? How many economies and industries does it involve? And perhaps more importantly, what role is Hong Kong going to play in the initiative?

If anyone is in doubt, I would suggest you to visit the B&R website operated by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, which provides you all the answers to these questions. I am pretty sure that you would be amazed by the range of opportunities we would potentially have. So instead of simply murmuring about our current political situation, why not shift our attention back to something that may bring us prosperity. Of course there will be challenges, but just as the famous saying goes, "no pain, no gain".

(HK Edition 12/28/2016 page1)