Hong Kong must not miss last train

Updated: 2017-04-19 07:43

(HK Edition)

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Hong Kong must not miss last train

In response to Premier Li Keqiang's announcement that the central government will draw up plans this year for the development of a city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying today (Wednesday) takes the first major step on the part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to facilitate the mega project - kicking off a three-day study tour with a major delegation to six mainland cities in this region. The delegation, including top-ranking officials and business leaders, will meet local leaders there and try to learn more about the latest developments in those cities. The trip will prove to be an attention-grabbing event, given the appreciable significance of the project.

For exactly this reason, expectations are strong that the study tour won't be just some courtesy calls or a kind of going-through-the-motions. The delegation is expected to spend every minute of their precious time on gathering information and knowledge of the partner cities as input to the SAR government's future strategy and action plans for Hong Kong's active participation in the city cluster project.

While the new regional development and integration idea has been conceived as part of the national strategy behind the Belt and Road Initiative, the Greater Bay Area project is equally - or even more - crucial to Hong Kong. It will help the city overcome the bottlenecks of its economic development, including a severe lack of land resources, a shortage of labor and an extremely narrow economic base. By appropriately positioning itself and playing a suitable role in the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong will give full play to its competitive advantages while tapping into the complementary strengths of the partner cities.

Over the past decade or so, much has been said about Hong Kong's need for industrial upgrades and economic structural transformation, which are considered essential for tackling some of the city's deep-seated social problems as well as maintaining its long-term economic prowess and prosperity. But not much progress has been achieved in this regard. This is because of the constraints of the bottlenecks as mentioned above - as well as the city being a relative laggard in technology and innovation development in areas other than international finance.

More than 10 years ago, the much less developed Shenzhen enthusiastically lobbied for closer economic cooperation and integration between itself and Hong Kong. But the response from the SAR has been far from enthusiastic because of both complacency and fear of Shenzhen gaining more benefits from closer ties than Hong Kong. Now Shenzhen has become a world-renowned innovation capital, second only to Silicon Valley, all by itself. And the overall economic prowess of the neighboring city is well on track to overtake Hong Kong's in a couple of years. Hong Kong's economic development might have advanced to a new level had it promoted economic cooperation with Shenzhen and other neighboring mainland cities with more enthusiasm.

The new regional economic cooperation and integration project initiated by the central government could be the last train for Hong Kong to take to realize the structural economic transformation it desperately needs. It is to be hoped that the SAR won't miss it. The city probably can't afford missing it.

(HK Edition 04/19/2017 page7)