HK Financial Secretary: integrating into the country's overall plan critical to Hong Kong
People's Daily Online
(People's Daily Online) 15:32, October 06, 2019
As social unrest has crippled Hong Kong for four months, the city's deep-seated economic and social problems that had been simmering under the surface had come to a boil. In light of this, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has pledged more economic and relief measures to solve the perennial problems of Hong Kong, adding that integrating into the overall development plan of the country is becoming more and more critical to Hong Kong.
Chan's remarks came after he attended the celebrations in Beijing commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1. In an inclusive interview with People's Daily Online on Wednesday, Chan expressed his sense of pride in China's development and its role as a contributor to global peace as he was deeply impressed by the military parade on National Day.
"Within the current international environment, we need to rise peacefully, so that we can not only protect ourselves but also be an important contributor to global peace," Chan told People's Daily Online.
Healing the wounds
Months of protests have caused a decline of nearly all economic indicators of Hong Kong in the first half of 2019, hitting a broad spectrum of sectors, such as tourism, catering, and retail industries. Furthermore, the unemployment rate is rising.
Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department reports that the GDP contracted 0.4% in the second quarter. Chan expressed his worries that if the economy shrinks further in the third, Hong Kong's economy may be dragged into a technical recession.
Chan said that the Hong Kong government, considering the stress faced by SMEs and citizens, has rolled out an array of measures to help them pull through. In August, the Hong Kong government issued measures with a total expenditure of 19.1 billion HKD to mitigate the impacts of the economic headwinds.
"For small and medium-sized enterprises, we have reduced their tax burden, provided support in terms of the turnover of funds, and guaranteed their banks' loans." According to Chan, SMEs account for 98% of local enterprises and about 45% of total employment, being the mainstay of Hong Kong's economy.
Apart from helping SMEs, Chan also pledged more relief measures to help needy citizens. The unaffordability of housing and land shortage has been the most painful and most significant problem of Hong Kong, said Chan, noting that the Hong Kong government has adopted a package of measures to alleviate the problem.
"We have adopted some initiative approaches, such as increasing land supply, exploring more development areas, and turning farmland into public housing. We will reinforce our efforts in building more self-occupied houses, be it for sale or for rent. We hope to build a certain number of houses in a relatively short time so as to help those who are living in poor housing conditions," Chan said.
On Sept. 13, the Hong Kong government gazetted its tax vacancy bill, signifying that all of the six housing initiatives that Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed in June last year have now been put in place. Chan stressed that this is not a problem that can be solved in a couple of days. However, the Hong Kong government has made great determination to solve it.
The current situation in Hong Kong, said Chan, let the Hong Kong government hear the voice of the youth and accordingly conduct self-examination. "In the future, we will be more people-oriented, and reach out more to our people, so as to roll out policies that enjoy the support of the people and serve their wellbeing," he said.
"We will let our people know more about the Hong Kong government through dialogues. Opening dialogues will help us understand and analyze the problems, and then solve them step by step," he added.
Riding the waves
Hong Kong was both a contributor to and a beneficiary of China's transformation over the past 40 years, and will play a more significant role in the process of integrating into the overall development plan of the country, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Initiative, Chan said.
Hong Kong has been an active player to push forward the Belt and Road initiative. In 2016, the Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office (IFFO) was established, with a mission to expedite infrastructure investments by working with key countries along the Belt and Road.
In addition, new opportunities are beckoning as the initiative starts to cover new sectors such as technology, logistics, and trading, said Chan, adding that the Hong Kong Trade Development Council has recently upgraded the BRI website, forming a one-stop platform which provides the latest information such as Hong Kong service providers and investment projects in efforts to reinforce the collaboration of BRI participants.
Chan also mentioned that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area further facilitates the regional flow of talent, commodity, capital, and information between Hong Kong and the mainland, strengthening the exchanges of the two sides as well as improving people's lives and regional development.
Since his appointment to the government in 2012, Chan noted, he has had a deeper understanding regarding the overall plan of the nation. Thus he has high confidence in the country's future development. "I have full confidence in 'one country, two systems,' as 'it is the most essential cornerstone of Hong Kong's success. Furthermore, integrating into the overall development plan of our country is becoming more and more critical to Hong Kong's economy," Chan added.
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