CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
HK leads financial hub race for Asia: HK is the most competitive
financial center in Asia Pacific, ahead of Japan and Australia,
a survey has found. The city ranked high for its transparent business
regulations and low tax base, among other advantages, according
to a study by the Securities and Futures Commission. "HK is
clearly ahead of other Asian markets in most factors," said
the SFC study, which extracted and compared the scores of 12 regional
economies, in two recent global competitiveness surveys run by the
Geneva-based World Economic Forum and the International Institute
of Management Development, based in Lausanne.
HK urged to develop new economic role in delta: HK's traditional
roles in logistics and transport are being replaced by Guangzhou
and Shenzhen, a university professor said. Feng Xiao-ping, of Jinan
University's Economics Institute, said HK's advantages could be
enhanced in the pan-Pearl River Delta area, but at the same time
the city had to develop its new economic role in this region.
Summit to tackle key challenge facing HK: Maintaining and
strengthening HK's high international status while integrating with
the mainland to avoid being marginalised within China is one of
the key challenges to be addressed by business, academic and community
leaders. Papers prepared for the 33 participants at the HK meeting
to discuss the city's role in China's 11th five-year plan also single
out the financial services industry as the most important for HK
in the future.
HK not being marginalised: HK faces challenges in maintaining
its status as a shipping centre but is not being marginalised, a
top official with the mainland's central economic planning authority
said. Xu Lin, director-general of fiscal affairs at the National
Development and Reform Commission, said high operating costs were
eroding the ports' advantages. "Throughput growth has already
shown signs of declining, and how to maintain HK's status as an
international shipping centre is a challenge," he told city
officials and other panellists at the economic summit discussing
HK's role in the 11th five-year plan.
HKMA won't change fund strategy yet: HK Monetary Authority
chief executive Joseph Yam said the government has no immediate
plans to change its investment strategies for the HK$1.1 trillion
Exchange Fund. Despite increasing calls for a more aggressive approach
in order to pursue higher returns, he said such a change required
approval from Financial Secretary Henry Tang and must be handled
with care. The Exchange Fund, which had HK$1.11 trillion worth of
assets as at the end of July, represents the total financial reserves
held by the government. Part of the fund is used to support the
HK dollar's peg to the US dollar.
Jobless rate drops to a five-year low in HK: HK's unemployment
rate improved to a five-year low of 4.8% last month, with the number
of people with jobs rising to a record 3.47 million, or about half
of the population.
SAR still preferred base for business: HK remains the preferred
base for international companies to oversee their regional operations,
with the number of regional headquarters and local offices run by
overseas enterprises reaching its highest-ever level this year,
topping 6,350. The United States has the most regional headquarters
here with 295, followed by Japan at 212, and the United Kingdom
at 114. Major lines of business include wholesale, retail, import-export,
and transport and related services.
Retail sales growth bounces back after World Cup slump: Retail
sales growth rebounded by a better-than-expected 7.1% in July as
local and tourist shopping helped boost sales of electronics products
and department store goods, the government said. The strong result
lifted total retail sales to HK$18.6 billion.
Tsang announces special panel to develop economic strategy for
HK: A special panel would be set up to develop an economic strategy
for HK which would pay closer attention to China's five-year plans,
Chief Executive Donald Tsang said. He was addressing the Economic
Summit on China's 11th Five-Year Plan and Development of HK, which
held its first meeting joined by academics, officials and business
leaders. Mr Tsang said its focus was China's 11th five-year plan
and also how HK could maintain its status as an international financial,
trading and shipping centre.
Tang defiant on GST consultation: Financial Secretary Henry
Tang has vowed to push ahead with the public consultation on the
proposed goods and services tax whether or not legislative councillors
vote next month to call it off. The consultation period for the
proposed GST is due to last until March next year, but a motion
placed before the Legislative Council calls on the government to
withdraw the proposal immediately. In underlining his determination,
Tang again stressed the need to widen HK's narrow tax base and said
he will personally take this message to various district seminars
to be held over the next few months.
Tsang supports GST as 'most practical option': Chief Executive
Donald Tsang broke his silence on the controversial goods and services
tax (GST), calling it "the most practical" option to ensure
a stable source of public revenue. He also challenged those who
opposed the tax to come up with "sustainable alternatives".
Treasury chief pushes GST case: HK's competitive strength
will remain intact even after the introduction of a goods and services
tax, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick
Ma Si-hang said. Referring to the latest report on global competitiveness,
Ma said the top five most-competitive countries on the list have
a GST in place.
Domestic politics: Discussion on economic
freedom and "positive non-intervention"
Tsang tosses out hands-off economic policy: Donald Tsang
declared the end of "positive non-intervention", a policy
that has previously been hailed as a pillar of HK's economic success.
The chief executive sealed the nail in the coffin of the policy
at a question-and-answer session at the end of the high-level summit
held to discuss how HK could seize opportunities from the mainland's
11th five-year plan (2006-2010).
Tsang's remarks sound warning for market watchdog: The chief
executive's remarks about HK's economic freedom has piqued the interest
of a free-market watchdog. The Fraser Institute's executive director,
Mark Mullins, said the institute would be "on alert" to
see whether Mr Tsang's remarks signalled the start of a new trend.
He believed other international organisations would be equally watchful.
Tsang `laissez-faire' row grows: The apparent abandonment
of HK's laissez-faire ideology is quickly growing into a crisis
of confidence, with one prominent party leader demanding the chief
executive fully explain what he meant when he said that "positive
non-intervention" was dead - and had been for some time. Civic
Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Thursday fired off an angry letter to
Donald Tsang. "Before abandoning so fundamental a philosophy
of governance, was there any public consultation or in-depth study?"
Eu wrote. "Have you considered the potential damage that is
done to HK internationally ... and have you, or those advising you,
considered what message this episode sends to international investors?"
"Positive non-interventionism": Chief Executive
Donald Tsang defends his position on "positive non-interventionism",
saying the government must adapt to a changing economy. But critics
said the statement raised more questions than it answered. Mr. Tsang
said he subscribed to the same commitment to "open competition,
free market and small government" that former financial secretary
Sir Philip Haddon-Cave had in 1980 when he formulated the policy
of "positive non-interventionism".
Keep the laissez-faire policy, economist Friedman urges:
Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who once lauded HK
as the perfect model of a free-market economy, said he was disappointed
- though not surprised - to see the city had moved away from a laissez-faire
economic policy. The 94-year-old senior research fellow at the Hoover
Institution also called it a "mistake" for the HK government
to shift from the policy of "positive non-interventionism"
to a policy of "big market, small government".
Domestic politics (other matters)
Tsang urged to target pollution and the economy: Top decision-makers
and opinion leaders say the chief executive should give top priority
to economic development and environmental protection in his October
policy address. Almost two-thirds of respondents to the latest SCMP/TNS
Opinion Leaders Survey called for urgent action to improve the environment.
Also high on their to-do list for Donald Tsang was easing poverty
and health-care reform. Universal suffrage ranked only 10th in terms
of urgency, just ahead of widening the tax base and cultural development
Wu Bangguo to weigh up HK political situation: The mainland's
number two leader and parliamentary chief, Wu Bangguo, will assess
constitutional development in HK during a visit in December, say
sources close to the central government. The findings by Mr Wu,
who will be in HK to attend Telecom World 2006, would help the top
leadership's deliberation on the city's political future after the
chief executive election next year. This deliberation would include
whether to expand the popular vote in HK or introduce universal
suffrage in the city in 2012.
Direct polls not a good idea now, says panel: The government
says most people on its top advisory panel do not believe electing
HK's legislature by universal suffrage should be the first priority
of constitutional reform. At the same time, some members of the
Commission on Strategic Development dismissed a proposal for transitional
measures short of universal suffrage, saying the public would not
accept it. The 153-member body, appointed last year, is made up
of social and political leaders. Members met to discuss ways of
having a fully directly elected Legislative Council. Officials say
there has been no decision on whether all Legco seats should be
filled by direct election in 2012.
Legal affairs and human rights
Justice Chief defends 'independent' courts: Secretary for
Justice Wong Yan-lung defended HK's legal system saying it had not
been compromised since the territory's 1997 handover to mainland
China. HK had a common law system adopted from the British model
during the time it was a British colony. This is based on concepts
such as habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial and legal representation
and also independent judges. Before the 1997 handover, some legal
experts feared HK's system might be compromised by the mainland,
which has a very different system - without the same freedoms.
HK legal system still strong: The justice minister gave an
assurance to lawyers in the US that HK would continue to encourage
the mainland to appreciate the city's common law traditions. "It
is not just our economy that survived the Asian financial crisis
and Sars," Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung said. "Our
legal system is also going strong despite the inevitable challenges
coming from the interface with the mainland political and legal
Margaret Chan sets out vision for WHO: China's nominee for
the WHO's top job, Margaret Chan, unveiled a seven-page manifesto
outlining her vision for the global health body, saying she was
a "very strong candidate" with a proven track record.
Dr Chan, a former HK director of health and now WHO assistant director-general
for communicable diseases, said the mainland did not change a word
in the document, titled "Attaining Results for Health".
Civic Exchange throws down pollution gauntlet: HK's increasingly
infamous air pollution situation, which is damaging its reputation
as a first-class city, could be significantly improved within two
years if only there were enough political will and understanding
of the crisis, according to environmental experts. Think-tank Civic
Exchange Sunday released an "Air Management Plan for HK,"
a suggested shadow plan for the government, with the group promising
"real progress" within two years so long as its multipronged
approach is adopted.
Official turns up the heat on air-conditioner debate: Setting
air conditioners to below 25.5 degrees Celsius could soon constitute
a crime in HK, according to a senior government official. Speaking
at a forum on climate change, Tse Chin-wan, assistant director of
the Environmental Protection Department, revealed legislation may
be on the horizon to force local businesses to adopt healthier indoor
US tightens air quality target; HK should too, say greens:
Environmentalists have renewed their calls for government action
to tighten air quality objectives after the US announced it was
reducing the air quality target for particulate pollution by nearly
half, to a level just one fifth of HK's target. Analysis of the
particulate pollution level in Central in March shows only seven
days met the new US standard. The situation in February was worse
- the US standards were met on only two days.
Las Vegas Sands boosts Macau outlay to US$10b: United States
gaming giant Las Vegas Sands Corp will increase its investment in
developing casino resorts on Macau's Cotai Strip by 25% to US$10
billion, according to chairman and chief executive Sheldon Adelson.
The company has decided to spend US$2 billion to build an additional
6,000 hotel rooms in Cotai. "We'll have 19,000 or 20,000 rooms
by the end of 2008 or early 2009," Mr Adelson said in an interview.
Wynn entry sparks fireworks in Macau: The opening of the
US$1.2 billion (HK$9.36 billion) Wynn Macau casino and hotel raises
the stakes significantly in a fiercely competitive casino market
that most experts predict will soon be the world's largest. The
battle for the region's gambling dollars pits chairman Steve Wynn
in an intense three-corner fight against Sheldon Adelson, the Las
Vegas stalwart behind Sands Macau, and local tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun,
whose family-controlled Sociedade de Jogos de Macau oversees most
of the rest of Macau's 22 casinos.
Table dance: Macau - a once sleepy backwater - is rushing
into the future with lots of promises and wads of cash. Most major
global gaming conglomerates now hold a stake in the enclave's future
and - like its Portuguese colonizers who arrived in 1553 and left
only in 1999 - the new inhabitants are expected to stay for a long
time. But will they? Can they survive the harsh competition gripping
China to boost trade with Portuguese bloc: China is aiming
to triple its trade with Portuguese-speaking countries in three
years, while using Macau as a bridge to former Portuguese colonies.
State councillor Hua Jianmin emphasised Macau's role as a platform
in economic co-operation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.
Press articles related to Liechtenstein
Paper art unites two countries (SCMP, 12.09.2006): China
and Switzerland don't have a lot in common when it comes to culture.
But, according to Johann Muller, the deputy consul-general of Switzerland
in HK, paper-cutting is an exception. An exhibition, The Magical
Art of Paper-cutting, features works by contemporary artists from
Switzerland and Foshan city. It is running at the Macau Museum until
"The Magical Art of Paper-Cutting Switzerland and the Foshan,
China" (Macao various press, 31.09.2006-09.09.2006): There
was good coverage of exhibition "The Magical Art of Paper-Cutting
Switzerland and Foshan, China" in various newspapers in Macao.
Its opening was officiated by the acting Chief Executive of Macao
SAR, the Director of Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macao SAR Government,
an official from the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of PRC in Macao, the acting Consul General of Switzerland, representatives
from the Swiss Association of Friends of Paper-cutting and the Guangzhou
Museum of Art on 8 September. The articles introduced the history
of paper-cutting in China and Switzerland as well as unique style
of Swiss paper-cuts. The exhibition is held at the Macao Museum
until 12 November.
Switzerland ranks 1st in competitiveness (HK Economic Journal,
27.09.2006): Switzerland has the world's most competitive economy,
according to a survey of 125 countries by the World Economic Forum
(WEF), thanks to innovation, research and scientific infrastructure.
HK ranks 11th whereas China ranks 54th in the survey.
This is a review of the Hong Kong media and does
not necessarly represent the opinion of the Consulate General
of Switzerland. The Consulate General of Switzerland in
Hong Kong does not bear any responsibility for the topicality,
correctness, completeness or quality of the information
provided. Liability claims regarding damage caused by the
use of any information provided, including any kind of information
which might be incomplete or incorrect, will therefore be
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