Hong Kong should move on and focus on economic and social issues now that the curtain has fallen on the ill-fated electoral reform effort, leading economists said.
Hang Seng Bank senior economist Ryan Lam cited the ageing population as a major economic challenge that needs to be tackled without further delay.
“The Hong Kong government has not put enough effort into coping with it,” he said.
He raised concerns about the long-lasting economic and social impact on society of a shrinking labour pool, adding that any measures aimed at solving the problem would take as long as 10 years to effect change.
“Even if the policy is implemented now, time is running short,” Lam said.
He said immigration could provide an important source of labour, but might cause controversy.
Lam suggested the government provide better support for working mothers to boost their productivity and so help address the labour shortage.
The lack of new growth momentum is another problem facing the economy, Lam said.
He said fast growth driven by the local tourism and retail sectors had become much harder to sustain with fewer mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong.
“We need to explore the development potential of high-value-added manufacturing and professional services,” Lam said.
Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu, director of the ACE Centre for Business and Economic Research, said the government should rev up sectors where Hong Kong enjoyed clear advantages, such as medical services and education.
It is also crucial to work on improving people’s livelihoods, Kwan said, adding that priority should be given to care for the elderly and the education system.
His view was shared by New People’s Party legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who on Friday said on a radio programme that the government should focus on economic and social issues.
Her comments came after the Legislative Council on Thursday rejected the government’s reform package for the 2017 chief executive election.
Local business associations called on the opposing political factions to set aside their differences and focus instead on the economy.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce said it hoped Legco would endorse the proposed establishment by the government of an innovation and technology bureau as soon as possible to drive development of the sector.
The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce urged the government to grasp the business opportunities offered by the country’s “One Belt, One Road” strategic initiative and the development of free-trade zones.
The Federation of Hong Kong Industries suggested the government launch more short-term and long-term measures to raise local productivity.
Source: South China Morning Post