Finance chief extols HK's 'super-connector' role
Updated: 2017-06-28 07:49
By Zhan Qianhui in Hong Kong(HK Edition)
As more and more Chinese mainland companies express strong desire to go abroad, Hong Kong has pledged to shift its position from channelling foreign investment into the mainland to helping ambitious mainland enterprises increase their global exposure. Provided to China Daily
Nation's support credited for putting city in a solid position
Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said the special administrative region's remarkable economic development during the past 20 years would have been impossible without the nation's constant support.
"Hong Kong has overcome many difficulties and achieved a good economic performance since its return to the motherland in 1997," the financial secretary observed.
According to the SAR government, Hong Kong's GDP last year was HK$2.5 trillion, an 81 percent nominal increase from that in 1997. The government's fiscal reserves nearly reached HK$1 trillion by the end of February, more than double the amount 20 years ago.
"Our GDP per capita is more than HK$44,000, a 60 percent increase compared with 1997 and higher than that of Japan and some European countries," Chan said.
"We have created over 600,000 jobs during the past two decades and the employment figure is now about 3.8 million."
The SAR government attached great importance to the improvement of people's livelihoods. It has increased spending on social welfare more than 70 percent during the last 20 years, Chan revealed.
The number of Hong Kong's listed companies has risen to around 2,000 from 650 in 1997, 65 percent of which are mainland enterprises. And mainland companies contribute to more than 70 percent of the daily trading volume in Hong Kong's stock market, he said.
"Our nation's economic take-off since the reforms and opening-up has provided vast opportunities for Hong Kong to develop as an international financial center and we are very grateful for that," he said.
According to Chan, Hong Kong's economy suffered a great deal after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and SARS epidemic in 2003, which dampened people's spirits.
"Property prices fell by over 60 percent and everyone was pessimistic," Chan said. "In order to inject impetus to Hong Kong's economy, the central government introduced the Individual Visit Scheme in 2003, lifting our economy from a gloomy state and brought confidence to all of us."
The Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement has strengthened Hong Kong's economic connection with the mainland. It has provided great opportunities for local companies and professionals to explore the mainland market, the financial secretary added.
Chan said the economic miracle achieved by China since the reforms and liberalization has surprised the world; the role Hong Kong played in national development has also changed subtly.
"Hong Kong investors contributed to a major part of the foreign investment on the mainland and many foreign investors used to go into the mainland through us at the early stage of the reform and opening-up," Chan said.
"But now foreign investment can be made directly to the mainland and many mainland companies have a strong desire to go out and invest with a bulging wallet."
As a "super-connector", the secretary said, Hong Kong is poised to use its expertise in risk management through decades of experience in international trade to support mainland investors' overseas projects.
"We are very happy to see our country's remarkable achievements made in the past. I'm pretty sure that Hong Kong could grasp new opportunities from national macro-development plans, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20)."
Chan expressed great confidence in Hong Kong's future development prospects.
"We would like to build Hong Kong into a global asset and wealth management center through our enhanced interconnection with the mainland financial market," the financial secretary explained.
Besides maintaining and improving traditional advantages, Chan also stressed the necessity to explore the growth potential in emerging industries to create more jobs for young people.
"We founded the Innovation and Technology Bureau in late 2015 and our government planned to invest HK$28 billion last year. This is to create a more friendly environment for innovative development," Chan added.
"Hong Kong has the world's largest offshore renminbi capital pool with hundreds of billions of off-shore renminbi here. More than 70 percent of overseas renminbi payments are made through Hong Kong. This not only means growth opportunities for Hong Kong, but it could push forward the internationalization of renminbi by making Hong Kong a firewall and test-field to make financial risks controllable," the financial secretary ventured.
Hong Kong's economic output constitutes a declining percentage of that of the whole nation, Chan said. But he added that this also indicated the country's rise as an emerging economic power.
Chan added that he has faith in Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability with support from the central government under the "one country, two systems" principle.
(HK Edition 06/28/2017 page4)