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New Year break a good time for people to plan for the future

By Sophie He | China Daily Asia | Updated: 2021-01-25 09:42
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Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam Cheng Yuest-ngor meets the press ahead of an Executive Council meeting at Central Government Offices on Jan 12, 2021. [Photo by PARKER ZHENG/CHINA DAILY]

The central government announced on Jan 18 that against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese mainland achieved 2.3 percent growth in gross domestic product in 2020, and a much higher 6.5 percent GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2020. The figures are nothing short of a miracle, as the mainland was the only major economy to expand in a turbulent 2020.

This achievement really demonstrates that the central government's decisiveness in controlling the spread of COVID-19 was crucial and it prevented the world's the second largest economy from plunging into recession.

On the same day, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told a forum that Hong Kong's GDP was estimated to have declined by 6.1 percent last year, a performance poorer than that of the global economy, which plunged roughly 4.4 percent. The SAR government announced on Jan 19 that the city's unemployment rate for the three months ending in December rose to 6.6 percent, a 16-year high.

Lam urged the city to capitalize on its "strong fundamentals and unique advantages as the international financial center of the country and one of the world's major financial hubs".

I couldn't agree more. I think Hong Kong people should feel a sense of urgency for the city to proactively take up its role in the country's development, contributing to the economic miracle while also benefiting from it.

So I couldn't help wondering what we, as ordinary Hong Kong residents, should do to lead the city, our hometown, to a brighter future. In my opinion, the very least we can do is to get the jab when the mass vaccination program for COVID-19 immunity is rolled out in Hong Kong.

I understand that some people are having doubts about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, but official data have shown that they are effective and safe, and I trust that the SAR government will make proper arrangements for its residents to get the right vaccines in an orderly manner.

The chief executive is also cautiously optimistic about the economy: "There will be a real momentum for recovery in the second half of the year" if the vaccines are as successful as expected, she told the Jan 18 forum.

For that to happen, Hong Kong people need to make a concerted effort to overcome the COVID-19 virus by getting vaccinated as much as possible. Only after eradicating the virus, which cost us dearly in the year of 2020 and is still haunting us in 2021, can we resume a normal flow of people between Hong Kong and the mainland and further integrate the city into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

My colleagues in Shenzhen told me that during the past six months or so, export companies and factories on the mainland side of the Bay Area have been getting more orders from overseas than they can fulfill. Due to the impact of the pandemic, Western countries have huge demand for home-office equipment and supplies, electronic devices and toys for children and pets, and the mainland is the supplier to which overseas consumers have turned.

Doesn't that sound exciting? Don't you envy your friends who live on the mainland and are carrying out their career plans, going to movies and enjoying restaurant dinners with their loved ones? Don't you want to be part of this buzzing economy?

If so, then Hong Kong people need to be realistic, and jump onto the country's "dual-circulation" bandwagon real quick so we don't get left behind.

The Chinese New Year is fast approaching. This year's celebrations will be unprecedented for Hong Kong people, with practically no tourists in the city and all the traditional activities canceled. Hong Kong people will have to stay put. No traveling back to Guangdong province for family reunions, nothing; just a few days off from work so we can all think about what we should do, and where the city should go in the future.

The author is a Hong Kong-based journalist.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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