Hong Kong cannot afford to miss the opportunities offered by the Greater Bay Area development and must re-establish the city’s lost position as the business centre for overseas Chinese, leading businessman Victor Fung Kwok-king has told the Post.
The Fung Group chairman issued the warning on Wednesday, saying the financial hub needed to embrace the economic zone encompassing 70 million people across Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province and reconstruct its battered economy in a post-Covid-19 world.
“I have never seen such an optimistic set of forecasts by the International Monetary Fund [IMF] for the rest of this year,” the tycoon said. “I don’t think Hong Kong can afford to miss this rebound. [If it does], it will truly lag behind. Not only is it a window of opportunities for the [city’s] third transformation, we will become a strong force, and the leading force in this third transformation like we did in the first [in 1949] and second one [in 1970s].
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“On the downside, if we miss this opportunity, we will have more serious problems,” Fung warned, referring to the possibility of the city sliding into even worse economic shape.
According to the IMF forecast, developing economies in Asia will enjoy 8.3 per cent growth this year from 2020 levels, led by China’s 8.1 per cent jump and India’s 11.5 per cent rise. Hong Kong’s gross domestic product is tipped to rebound by 4.3 per cent this year from the 6.1 per cent contraction in 2020- the worst on record.
Fung, whose privately held trading and supply chain management company traces its roots back to 1906, said Hong Kong needed to become more familiar with mainland China, the Bay Area and the region.
“We must focus outward, definitely we need to know mainland China, the Greater Bay Area, but it is not enough. We need to know the rest of the world and familiarise [ourselves] with our neighbours, for example, Asean,” he said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “We need to re-establish our position as the centre for overseas Chinese.”
Fung also chairs the 2022 Foundation think tank, which released a 65-page study earlier this month on Hong Kong’s positioning in the Bay Area and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP], the world’s biggest free-trade deal covering 15 nations in Asia-Pacific. The city could take up the role as the hub and “digital control tower” for new trade and investment flows, while also cementing its status as an aviation centre, the research said.
Hong Kong should also capitalise on its strength in basic research, Fung urged, noting the city had several universities ranked among the best in the world. That would fill a critical missing piece in the industrialised Pearl River Delta, which was strong in applying and commercialising technologies, he argued.
“Hong Kong can serve as a location for small digitalised factories, producing a small number of products within a short period of time before testing consumer feedback across the border,” he said.
Fung said Hong Kong’s link with the Bay Area was the first step the city could take in galvanising the RCEP, which covered China, Asean, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea – almost one-third of the world’s population and about a third of its GDP.
The realisation of the RCEP would also pave the way for reconstructing the world’s multinational trade system, the World Trade Organization.
“Hong Kong must get into [the] RCEP,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and several senior officials are due on Thursday to meet with Chinese counterparts in Guangzhou for talks on the Greater Bay Area development.
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