Editorial : HK needs Greater Bay Area more than ever

【明報專訊】Amid the pandemic-battered global economy and an unpredictable international situation, Hong Kong has to concentrate more on development efforts so as to overcome the adversities brought about by the pandemic and get on its feet again. A practical and viable choice is setting the city's sight on the Greater Bay Area. From the business sector to the technological sector, there are views that Hong Kong should flexibly respond to the circumstances and prefer the easily accessible to the out-of-reach. Making inroads into the Greater Bay Area is the big direction. However, the Hong Kong government's enterprise in this regard is obviously far from enough. In contrast to the mainland and Macao where the pandemic is under control, Hong Kong is still mired in the mud. The failure to implement the Hong Kong Health Code so far has obstructed people's travel between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of work to be done by the Hong Kong authorities on the policy level. They should not just sit back and wait until the end of the pandemic before making plans. The Hong Kong government must speed up its negotiation with Guangdong and Macao so as to eliminate the various bottlenecks and formulate substantial development strategies for deepening co-operation.

More than three years into the inclusion of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area into China's national development strategy, the concept has been gradually turned into action. The central government has announced multiple policies to remove barriers and restraints such as broadening the scope of mutual recognition of professional qualifications, allowing Hong Kong residents to apply for the mainland's residence permits, giving Hong Kong people the same treatment as mainlanders regarding property purchases in Greater Bay Area cities other than Hong Kong and so forth. Because of the loosened restrictions on property purchases on the mainland, the number of Hong Kong people going north to buy homes has significantly increased in recent years. Although the pandemic has hindered travel between Hong Kong and the mainland, as long as people on the two sides gradually resume their travel, it is believed that the above-mentioned trend will only be even more obvious.

Infrastructure in the Greater Bay Area has been built for interconnectedness. The construction of the extension of the Guangzhou-Dongguan-Shenzhen intercity rail line from Shenzhen International Airport to Qianhai was kicked off not long ago. Economic integration in the region has continued to accelerate. At the beginning of this year, the Guangdong provincial government raised the idea of establishing a platform called "Bay Area Connect" with the aim of promoting mutual recognition of standards, better convergence of rules and interconnection of policies regarding public transport, telecommunication fees and electronic payments so as to facilitate the flow of people between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. Last week, Governor of Guangdong Province Ma Xingrui said that his government will summon the province's full strength to boost the construction of the Greater Bay Area. The Guangzhou government will also roll out even more measures to make it more convenient for Hong Kong and Macao residents to live in Guangzhou and enjoy healthcare services there. There will also be measures helping Hong Kong and Macao young adults to start businesses in Guangzhou. Furthermore, the Greater Bay Area is preparing to launch a cross-boundary "Wealth Management Connect" scheme and Macao is also making active preparations accordingly. By comparison, Hong Kong has not taken any significant moves in this regard.

Many an impediment lies in the way forward amid the pandemic. To find the way out, one must adopt a pragmatic attitude rather than be politically orientated or put ideology in the first place. The escalating struggle between China and the US, as well as the impact of the pandemic on global industrial chains and the global economy, has caused great changes in the conditions of Hong Kong's development. On the contrary, the pandemic is under control on the mainland. Other cities in the Greater Bay Area are only a short distance away. Be it innovative technology or doing business, it is feasible. One can set off onto the mainland once the Hong Kong Health Code is implemented. The importance of the Greater Bay Area to Hong Kong in the times of a pandemic is greater than before.

For Hong Kong people who work or live on the mainland, issues concerning taxation, welfare, insurance and labour have yet to be resolved. The Hong Kong government must speed up the related discussion with other cities in the Greater Bay Area. At the same time, it must also set concrete goals for the short, medium and long term. Doctrinaire talk and continuing to play for time are in no way acceptable.

明報社評2020.09.29:克服疫境再上路 香港更需大灣區






■Glossary 生字

adversity : a difficult or unpleasant situation

out-of-reach : beyond the capacity of sb to attain or achieve sth

make inroads into/on sth : to have a clear and definite effect on sth

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