Life in Hong Kong
Businessmen foresee more chances
to make money after the handover

By Anita Li

Time magazine published an article earlier this year headlined “The Death of Hong Kong”. It predicted the failure of the Hong Kong economy after the 1997 handover.

The article may have jumped to its conclusion, but the worries about investing in Hong Kong are not unsound. There are lots of concerns over the feasibility of the “one country, two systems” model in Hong Kong after 1997.

While foreigners seem pessimistic towards Hong Kong’s future economy, local businessmen hold different views.

Mr. Augustine Li, an economist and one of the owners of Pareto Economic Institute, a popular tutorial center, said the 1997 issue may lead to anxiety among Hong Kong people.

Said Mr. Li: “Hong Kong people have never done business in a socialist market. The change may affect their business orientation.

“However, all Hong Kong and Chinese people hope to maintain the well being of the Hong Kong economy. They will always try their best to work for this.

“Therefore, in the near future, I can see no harm in the Hong Kong economy caused by the change of sovereignty,” said Mr. Li.

In addition, Hong Kong has a stable linked exchange rate, a sound banking system and a reviving economy after two years of recession, especially in real estate.

Continued Mr. Li: “Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that the widespread corruption in China may scar away both local and foreign investment, gradually ruining the Hong Kong economy in the next century.

“Also, different points of view held by Chinese and Hong Kong people towards politics may affect the local economy after 2000. Anyway, Hong Kong will benefit from the rapid economic growth in China,” Mr. Li concluded.

Mr. Simon Tam, senior account director of a public relations company, commented on behalf of his company that the 1997 issue will by no means affect his company's business.

Explained Mr. Tam: “This is because all of our clients are world famous airlines, aircraft and aircraft engine producing firms, and transnational import-export companies.

“Air transportation has become more and more popular and important in the Asian Pacific region, particularly China. Our company can always make a profit.”

To show its confidence in local future business, the company recently planned to sign a contract with a well-known European motor company.

“After all,” said Mr. Tam, “the tremendous economic growth in China will stimulate both local and foreign investment after 1997, which has always been regarded as a benchmark for the development of Hong Kong.”

Besides, moves by the Corporate Communication division of Cathay Pacific Airways also express commitment to Hong Kong economy.

Its manager, Mr. Kwan Chuk-fai, said, “We will construct a headquarters and a hotel near to Chek Lap Kok Airport, costing $3.5 billion."

In short, the company will have large-scale development and renovation from now to the year 2000.

Mr. Kwan concluded, “The first of July in 1997 will just be another day of business for us.”

Since Hong Kong is an important centre for communication and commerce in the Asian Pacific region, he does not see the handover will do any harm to the company.

Another company, Lufthansa German Airlines, looks for investment opportunities not only in Hong Kong, but also in China.

Mrs. Patricia Wong, sales manager in charge of Southern China, Hong Kong and Macau business, said, “China has a promising future, and we keep our eyes on anything about China.”

After 1998, the company will open more routes between Beijing and Germany.

Mrs. Wong said, “Also, the company will cooperate with China International Travel Service to run a commercial centre in Guangzhou and Beijing, dealing with ticketing and travelling for both Chinese and Europeans.”

Mrs. Wong said that the 1997 issue will benefit the company because more Mainland people will travel and do business overseas, meaning there will be more business in the future. However, a lot of technical problems have to be overcome in setting up offices in China.

Besides service industry, manufacturing and retailing firms also see investing opportunity in Hong Kong economy.

Mr. Wilson Hon, the director of Hoo Cheung Electrical Manufacturing Company Limited, said that he did not worry about the future of their business.

His confidence is rooted from the fact that there is always demand overseas.

If these local business professional are to be believed, then the death sentence given by Time may have been premature. In any case, it does not square with the point of view of many local leaders who are willing to continue their business after 1997.

November 1996

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