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As the Occupy Central Movement has adversely affected the economy and local sentiment, the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) together with other representatives from the travel and tourism, retail and catering, automobile, and securities sectors met today (December 17) with the Financial Secretary, Mr John Tsang Chun-wah, to submit proposals on stimulating the economy, sustaining small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and supporting Hong Kong. Ideas ranged from a government-led campaign to organise festival-related mega events redolent of Hong Kong locally and internationally to stimulate the economy, lowering the threshold for government-operated loans to assist those SMEs hurt by the Occupy Movement and studying the opportunities for expanding the existing framework for the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect.
During the meeting, Dr Peter Lam Kin-ngok, BPA Council Chairman, pointed out that the Occupy Movement has inevitably dampened investment enthusiasm, tarnished Hong Kong’s international image, and undermined consumer sentiment. It has also resulted in the loss of income and morale by the general working population especially those at the grassroots. Given the foregoing, it was hoped that government would take action to restore confidence. For example, the government’s overseas offices could partner with their counterparts to provide international businesses and communities timely updates on the actual situation in Hong Kong.
“Despite today’s cold and bleak weather conditions, we were warmed by Mr. Tsang’s positive response,” said Mr Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, BPA Vice Chairman, after the meeting. He noted that many retail workers have suffered drastic reductions in commission income due to the Occupy Movement. In certain extreme cases, some workers “did not make enough to pay for food and school fees” and had to rely on the kindness of their employers who, despite flagging business, raised commissions and continued to handout bonuses in an effort to retain their workforce. The BPA urges the government to set up a simple loan programme to provide cash-flow relief for SMEs hardest hit by the Occupy Movement.
In their discussions with the Financial Secretary, representatives from various sectors expressed concerns with the repercussions of the Occupy Movement on their businesses. Specifically, it was pointed out that autumn and winter were typically peak periods for wholesalers and retailers in placing orders, a practice that was disrupted by sluggish retail activity brought on by the Occupy Movement. The slowdown in turnover has led to major inventory backlogs and substantial write-downs. Many wholesalers are adopting a wait-and-see approach to the extent that some have delayed placing orders until next March, which has created a knock-on effect on manufacturers, and other trades along the supply chain.
Mr Philip Ma King-huen, Chairman and CEO of the Sincere Group, spoke on the need to reinstate the “feel good factor” and suggested the government introduce shopping vouchers or rebate coupons to stimulate consumer spending. Mr Michael Wu, Chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, pointed out that although there was an overall increase in visitor arrivals for October and November there had however been a decline in the number of high-spending overnight travelers; November’s statistics for long-haul visitors had fallen 12% year-on-year. Outbound tourism has also suffered due to poor local sentiment. Given the aforementioned difficulties, the travel trade is hoping for a turnaround in fortunes for Hong Kong in 2015.
Mr Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, BPA Vice Chairman, stressed the importance for the government to do its best to shore up international investors’ confidence in Hong Kong. He also pointed out that many small and medium brokerages had yet to benefit from the implementation of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect due to capital flows to the Mainland regularly outpacing that to Hong Kong. He suggested that the government relax the RMB500,000 minimum investment threshold imposed on Mainland investors so that they could buy into quality small-cap stocks on the Hong Kong bourse, and to enable small and medium brokerages in Hong Kong to play a more active role in reinvigorating the investment atmosphere. Mrs Chu Yuet-wah, CEO and Executive Director of Kingston Financial Group, suggested the government to spearhead the organisation of a roadshow comprising senior individuals across the financial industry for the purpose of showcasing opportunities in Hong Kong to international hedge fund companies, as well as other overseas financial institutions.
Mr Abraham Shek Lai-him, BPA Secretary General, said that the Policy Address and Budget Speech that followed immediately after the Occupy Movement was of critical importance in responding to the practical difficulties that are afflicting society. Efforts should be made to avoid being embroiled in endless political bickering. Rather, priority should be given to addressing economic and livelihoods matters so that the process of healing a fractured society could be completed and balance restored as quickly as possible.
Other sectoral representatives attending the meeting included: Mr Victor Chan, Chairman of the Hong Kong Hotels Association and General Manager of the Kowloon Hotel; Mr Jason Wong Chun-tat, Director and General Manager of Hong Thai Travel Services; Mr Tommy Li Ying-sang, Chairman of Pak Shing Tong Group and Adviser to the Quality Tourism Services Association; Dr Jimmy Tang, Chairman of Prince Jewellery and Watch Company; Mr Eddy Li Sau-hung, Chairman of Campell International; Mr Paul Law, Chairman of the Motor Trades Association of Hong Kong; Mr David Wong, Honourary President of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Professionals Association; Ms JoJo Chan, Senior Adviser of Tai Hing Catering Group, and; Mr Sam Fu, representative of the Hong Kong Food Council.