More than 100 foreign companies are discussing potential investment plans with Hong Kong authorities, the commerce chief has said, while also predicting the city’s economy will revive in the second half of the year.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau Ying-wah on Saturday stopped short of disclosing the names of the leading global corporations with preliminary investment plans in the city, saying it was commercially sensitive information.
“We have been discussing their requests on land, taxation and financial arrangements to see if they can be implemented,” Yau told a radio programme. “It takes time for companies to settle down in Hong Kong but the progress has been great … We are optimistic.”
Simon Lee Siu-po, an honorary fellow at the Asia-Pacific Institute of Business at Chinese University, said the city government was “on the right track” when it came to attracting foreign investment, adding it had been relatively slow in reopening borders compared with other places. He stressed that different government departments had to work towards the same goal.
“If the bureaus do not coordinate their efforts and stay coherent on attracting foreign capital, investors may feel worried,” Lee said.
He cited plans for the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal as an example of a lack of coordination between government departments, saying potential proposals to turn nearby pandemic isolation facilities into youth hostels could affect economic development in the area and dampen the mood on investment.
He added the number of flights coming into the city had yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, and expensive plane tickets could increase the cost of investment.
Terence Chong Tai-leung, an associate professor of economics at Chinese University, suggested that the government could consider providing incentives to overseas corporations, such as tax deductions and rent discounts.
The commerce chief also predicted a revival of Hong Kong’s economy in the second half of the year, following the launch of an ambitious global tourism campaign called “Hello Hong Kong”, which will offer 700,000 free airline tickets to travellers, as well as goodies and special events.
“When we give out 500,000 free flight tickets under the first phase of the campaign, the number of people coming to Hong Kong will increase consumption and business, boosting the city’s overall economy,” Yau said.
Authorities launched the promotional drive earlier this month to entice visitors back to the city after three years of isolation under tough Covid-19 pandemic curbs.
Free tickets will be given out in phases, with the first targeting Southeast Asian countries to be distributed starting from next month. The second phase aims to draw in travellers from the mainland from April, then northeast Asia, including South Korea and Japan, and other markets in May.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board has also started giving away at least 1 million spending vouchers for tourists worth HK$100 (US$13) each under the “Hong Kong Goodies” campaign.
Separately, Yau also said authorities would follow up on Hong Kong Cable Television’s decision to pull the plug on its pay-TV services and focus on free-to-air services.
He said it was possible that a TV station with operational difficulties would lay off workers but he hoped the operator would redeploy the employees instead.