CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
HK 2006 growth forecast raised to 6.5%: The government has
raised its economic forecast for this year following better-than-expected
gross domestic product growth of 6.8% in the third quarter. Despite
a slowdown in the US economy, the HK administration has increased
the forecast in economic growth in 2006 from 5% to 6.5%, with inflation
easing to 2%.
Unemployment hits five-year low: The seasonally adjusted
unemployment rate declined from 4.7% in July-September 2006 to 4.5%
in August- ctober 2006, the lowest since the second quarter of 2001.
"Despite steady improvements in the general employment scene,
the mismatch in human resources brought by the structural change
in the local economy still needs to be addressed. The Government
will continue to adopt a multi-pronged approach to promote employment
on all fronts and strives to improve the business environment so
that more job opportunities will be created in the open market,"
the government spokesman said.
IMF predicts HK economy to expand 5%: HK's economy is expected
to grow 5% next year after a robust increase in the range of 5.5%
to 6% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF also expected that the budget surplus this year would be
higher than the government's original forecast of HK$5.6 billion.
New York sees HK as threat to financial status: New York
risks losing its status as the world's primary financial center
to fast- developing centers like HK, New York City mayor Michael
Bloomberg said in a newspaper article. Bloomberg said New York is
losing ground to other centers like HK and London, which are becoming
leaders in capital formation. More money will be raised through
IPOs in HK next year than in either London or New York.
HK's mainland companies face tax squeeze: Tens of thousands
of HK factories on the mainland face severe difficulties and many
might be forced to fold now that the rebates for value-added tax
they pay on overseas sales have been removed or reduced, industry
representatives and politicians said. The operators are feeling
the pinch after the changes were announced and immediately implemented
six weeks ago at a peak time for their operations, they said, warning
the move could have a knock-on effect for HK.
Delta growth could sideline HK: A high-level government advisory
body has added to the growing chorus of warnings that HK will have
to work hard to avoid being marginalised by booming growth in the
Pearl River Delta. Guangdong's rapid development of heavy and high-value-added
industries poses severe challenges to HK as it will reduce reliance
on the city's ports and logistics facilities, the Greater Pearl
River Delta Business Council said. The council said it was generally
expected that Shenzhen's container throughput would surpass HK's
in two to three years' time.
Better links to China's interior vital, business chief says:
HK must maintain its competitiveness by reaching beyond the Pearl
River Delta if it wants to gain from China's economic growth, the
chairman of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council said.
Victor Fung told a HK General Chamber of Commerce lunch: "I
have never thought for one moment that HK would be marginalised.
But we have to plan ahead." His comments come only a week after
the release of a government advisory body report that HK would have
to work hard to avoid being marginalised by the booming growth in
the Pearl River Delta.
Retail sales surge as economy improves: HK retail sales in
September moderated from the five-month high recorded in August,
but remained robust due to strong domestic consumption. Taking the
first nine months together, total retail sales rose by 6.8% in value
or 5.6% in volume over last year.
Cepa ‘benefits EU-linked firms’: Chief Executive
Donald Tsang noted that since the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement
(Cepa) was implemented in 2004, more than 1,000 companies had secured
service supplier certificates. “Of these 1,000-odd certificates,
roughly half are held by foreign linked companies and 120 by EU-linked
corporations,” he said. Cepa provides tarif-free access to
the mainland market for HK goods, as well as enhanced access in
27 services sectors.
Domestic politics : Policy Address
Treasury chief in new push for GST: Secretary for Financial
Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma has stepped up campaigning
for the controversial goods and services tax, assuring lawmakers
that the levy will create more stable revenue for the government.
Giving figures in the Legislative Council, he said: "During
the past eight years, revenue from land sales have fluctuated by
up to 540%, stamp duties by 140%, profits tax by 85%, and salaries
tax by 51%." But, if the proposed 5% GST is introduced, the
revenue generated would fluctuate by only 25%, Ma said, noting his
estimation is based on HK's economic situation in the past eight
Democrats field 104 candidates for Election Committee polls:
The pan-democratic camp has fielded 104 candidates for the sub-sector
polls of the Election Committee which selects the next chief executive
in March. They hope 80% of those vying for seats on the 800-strong
committee will be successful in the polls on December 10. If they
succeed, the pan-democrats believe their candidate for chief executive
post, Alan Leong, would have a good chance of getting the 100 nominations
needed to bid for the top job.
Integrate or city will be left behind: A think-tank close
to Chief Executive Donald Tsang added to the warnings that HK faced
being marginalised unless it could integrate quickly with the mainland.
And it cited as an example the city's slowness in integrating with
the mainland's transport network.
Legco rejects universal suffrage again: For the second successive
week, the Legislative Council has rejected a motion which would
see the introduction of universal suffrage by 2012. And for the
second time, it was the non-democratically returned functional constituencies
that put paid to the aspirations of the democrats. Last week, they
voted against a motion calling for the chief executive to be returned
by universal suffrage by 2012. Yesterday (29.11.2006), the largely
business-orientated functional constituencies rejected by 20 votes
to seven, with two abstentions, a motion calling for the entire
Legislative Council to be elected by universal suffrage on or before
2012 and which had been passed by the directly elected representatives
by 17 votes to nine.
EU wants to beef up ties with HK, Macau: Europe wants closer
links with HK and Macau to help protect intellectual property rights
and crack down on Europeans using the cities to avoid tax. A proposal
released on 31.10.2006 also calls for a host of relationships from
customs, trade and finance to academic links. Funding should also
be provided by the EU to encourage these kinds of relationships
to develop, says the document, which is entitled The European Union,
HK and Macau: Possibilities for Co-operation. Earlier this month
the EU named HK as a suspected destination for European tax cheats.
Margaret Chan wins WHO race in coup for China, HK: HK's former
director of health Margaret Chan made history when she was nominated
World Health Organisation director-general in a resounding victory
that saw her lead all the way in four rounds of voting. Dr Chan,
59, is expected to be endorsed by the 193-member World Health Assembly,
making her the first Chinese to lead a United Nations agency and
the first from HK to lead any important international agency.
Legal affairs and human rights
Competition law could be ready by next year: A fair competition
law covering all types of business could be ready for lawmakers'
scrutiny next year if supported by the public, Secretary for Economic
Development and Labour Stephen Ip said. But he said the administration
remained open-minded on the need for a law, despite the recommendation
for one by a government-appointed review committee. Announcing a
three-month consultation, Mr Ip said it was necessary to ensure
HK's competition policy was in step with the times.
Most firms in bad shape for pandemic: A survey has found
most firms to be woefully unprepared should HK be hit by a flu pandemic.
The HK Institute of Human Resource Management said proper planning
and preparation are vital to allow firms to resume critical functions
partially or completely within a short time after a disaster or
disruption. According to the results of the survey, more than three
quarters of firms have no procedures for business continuity during
a pandemic. Almost half did not know the methods of infection and
transmission for viruses.
Air pollution affecting competitiveness, warns IMF: The poor
air quality in HK and around the Pearl River Delta is not only a
regional problem, but a global concern that could undermine the
SAR's competitiveness, the International Monetary Fund has warned.
"Concern was raised over the adverse impact of increased pollution
on the SAR's competitiveness, and this has been reflected in the
difficulties the territory is facing in attracting and retaining
high-skilled workers," the fund said. "While there was
broad support for the HK government's growing recognition of these
concerns and recent efforts to address them, many felt that initiatives
to reduce cross-border pollution were urgently needed and that greater
emphasis could be placed on market-based mechanisms."
Air could be cleared for HK$51b, says report: HK's air pollution
could be cleaned up for HK$51 billion if all the drastic measures
proposed by the Council on Sustainable Development were implemented
immediately. The 70-page Report on Better Air Quality, released
by Chief Secretary Rafael Hui, estimates it would cost HK$28.1 billion
if the same 23 options were adopted gradually. The measures are
aimed at reducing emissions of pollutants by the city's power generators,
vehicles and factories. The HK$51 billion covers such things as
one-off costs for installing flue-gas desulfurisation units at power
stations and fitting catalytic converters on heavier vehicles.
HK smog prompts cut in office ratings: HK's air pollution
led Merrill Lynch to cut share ratings of three office property
companies in the city based on concerns professionals will leave
to escape the smog. It is the first time the broker has downgraded
companies because of the city's pollution. Investors were advised
instead to buy the shares of three Singapore developers and landlords.
"It's a very strong unprecedented message," Andrew Thomson,
chief executive of the city's Business Environment Council, said
and indicated a "new level" of concern among businesses.
Planning for climate change crisis 'ignored': HK is unprepared
for a climate change catastrophe despite predictions that a minor
rise in mean sea level aggravated by a storm surge could cause disastrous
flooding of the city and Pearl River Delta, environmentalists said.
They said the city had yet to take necessary steps to research the
impact of such events, prepare for them and initiate cross-border
efforts to combat their effects.
Firms slow to back air quality campaign: A high-profile campaign
to improve air quality in HK has drawn a cool response from the
business sector, with only about 100 of the tens of thousands of
HK-owned factories operating in the Pearl River Delta signing up.
Among those still to join the voluntary scheme are businesses owned
by executive councillors and lawmakers. The Clean Air Charter, launched
a year ago by the HK General Chamber of Commerce and the HK Business
Coalition on the Environment, was touted as the first step to combating
air pollution in the Pearl River Delta. But it had garnered only
about 500 signatures, nearly half of them from business chambers
and the services sector, which generate little emissions.
Business clean-air `lethargy' slammed: Options that may drastically
change people's lifestyles - including ways to commute on days when
air pollution becomes critical - have been proposed by the Council
for Sustainable Development to solve HK's worsening air pollution.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang told a green forum for the business
sector the council will soon consult the public with a view to forging
consensus on the measures. And David Eldon, chairman of the HK General
Chamber of Commerce, attacked HK's business community for making
only "lethargic efforts" in the drive for clean air. Eldon
said it would require "a lot more" firms to join the Clean
Air Charter campaign for it to carry any weight.
Thriving Macau lures more mainland business migrants: Macau's
economic boom has lured an increasing number of business immigrants,
especially from the mainland, who have poured in billions of patacas
in capital investment in recent years. A total of 2,464 applications
for capital investment immigration were filed in Macau last year,
compared with 495 in HK. In 2003, before the economic boom began
in the former Portuguese enclave, the number of applications stood
Call for casinos in HK as Macau lures mainlanders: Calls
for HK to open casinos have followed monthly figures for mainland
tourists visiting Macau under the individual traveller scheme nosing
ahead of HK in September for the first time since the scheme was
introduced in 2003. A total of 427,097 mainland solo travellers
visited Macau in September, compared with 427,026 to HK, according
to statistics from the two governments.
Macau sets the ball rolling on minimum wages: Macau Chief
Executive Edmund Ho has gone well ahead of his HK counterpart Donald
Tsang by introducing a minimum wage for the Special Administrative
Region's poorest paid workers. In his policy address, Ho also announced
a pay rise for the public sector and tax cuts on more than 10 items
designed to boost small and medium-sized enterprises and improve
the people's livelihood. In his 28-page policy address, Ho said
civil service pay will increase by 4.76% next year.
Hongkongers warming to national identity: Hongkongers' acceptance
of their national identity has grown in the years since the handover,
although they still love the city more than the country and the
Chinese Communist Party, a survey has found. The poll, conducted
by Chinese University's Centre for Communication Research, shows
Hongkongers are more positive towards symbols linked with the mainland,
including the People's Liberation Army, the national flag and the
80% tax on wine too high, says lawmaker: The lawmaker for
the catering industry has repeated calls for alcohol duties to be
cut, three months before the financial secretary delivers his budget
speech. Tommy Cheung, of the Liberal Party, said the wine tax of
80% was too high. "The heavy alcohol duties have made the related
industries like hotels, tourism and entertainment unable to compete
regionally," he said. Macau imposed a tax of 15% on wine, while
on the mainland it was fixed at about 29%.
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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