Hong Kong’s leader tinkers with economy in the face of “grave” challenges
In her first policy address since coming into power in July, the chief executive acknowledged that “Hong Kong is facing increasingly grave challenges,” citing in particular competition from other economies.
She called for the development of an economy that was more diversified and fostered leading technologies.
It was an echo of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s comment that Hong Kong’s traditional strengths are “losing their edge, while new drivers of growth have yet to emerge,” during his visit to the city in July.
But economists and investment strategists said that while Lam and her big boss in Beijing may have identified the disease, they have yet to come up with a cure.
In her policy speech she sought to tinker with probably the territory’s biggest social problem – soaring property prices that have put owning an apartment out of reach for many young middle and working class Hong Kongers.
And she decided to throw money at another issue – the lack of innovation – by targeting a doubling of the percentage of the city’s gross domestic product that goes to research and development (R&D).
But her “Starter Homes” scheme – meant to provide affordable housing for purchase by lower-income residents – may only make a small dent in the problem. Hopes she would come up with proposals to free up much more land for development weren’t addressed.
Kevin Lai, chief economist for Asia ex-Japan at Daiwa, called the new housing measures and some tax cuts aimed at small businesses “trivial.” He said the government needed to rid young people of the housing burden to allow them to focus on more enterprising activities, which he says would have more success than government-funded projects.