CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
Mainland banks to take more HK business: Mainland lenders
will account for 40% of HK's market by 2010 as they continue to
expand in the city, according to William Ryback, a deputy chief
executive of the HK Monetary Authority. Speaking at the authority's
annual review briefing, Mr Ryback said mainland banks, which now
account for 25% of banking assets in HK, would continue to expand
in the city to diversify as they were now more confident in their
competitiveness. HK could also give them a chance to gain experience
in managing business outside their home base, and could act as a
springboard for expansion in the region and the United States.
Expanding financial role remains key: Donald Tsang promised
to take HK's economy to the next level by strengthening its role
as China's financial center and to revive the city's infrastructure
investment if he is re-elected March 25. "We should further
develop our financial industries and attract more quality companies
to list in HK," Tsang told the press briefing to kick off his
Yam fears austerity impact in long run: The mainland's austerity
measures may lead to "consequences beyond imagination,"
HK Monetary Authority chief executive Joseph Yam has warned, although
he said the policies may achieve a short-term effect of cooling
down both the stock market and property sectors. "The central
government may be able to set aside the matter of imbalance of supply
and demand by imposing relevant measures for now, but the economy
may be faced with consequences beyond imagination eventually,"
Yam said in a briefing to the Legislative Council panel on financial
Change tax laws to help city compete: HK chamber: More needs
to be done to promote to foreign businesses the advantages of HK's
taxation system, says General Chamber of Commerce chief executive
Alex Fong. Not that the system is perfect yet, the chamber believes.
It advocates more tax allowances for small businesses and has long
pressed for companies under a single group to be taxed on the group's
profits, not individual companies', he said.
Three more undercut HSBC rate: Hongkong and Shanghai Banking
Corp (HSBC), which set off the latest home-loan war by slashing
its mortgage rate, now finds itself near the high end as three more
lenders lowered their rates to undercut HSBC's 4.87%.
Tax giveaways are just the job for Tang: Armed with the highest
fiscal surplus since the handover, Financial Secretary Henry Tang
offered a list of sweeteners in the last budget of his tenure, which
observers say will likely catapult him into the position of chief
secretary in the next government. Tang proposed to hand out HK$20
billion to the community in the form of one-off tax rebates or long-term
tax relief, potentially benefiting 1.1 million taxpayers.
Business sector left unimpressed: The business sector is
disappointed at Financial Secretary Henry Tang's failure to reduce
profit tax. Although hailed as being generous to the middle class,
some analysts said Tang's sweeteners lacked long-term vision.
Domestic politics : Election of Chief
Tsang hits the street: Stressing he would get the job done,
incumbent Chief Executive Donald Tsang vowed that, if re-elected,
he would reduce salaries and profits tax, introduce other tax-relief
measures and take positive action to reduce pollution. He failed
to make any promise on full democracy for the SAR, saying only he
would release a political reform green paper and initiate a three-month
consultation exercise in mid-year.
Tsang sails home with 450 backers: Chief Executive Donald
Tsang has already secured more than 450 nominations on the fourth
day of his election campaign but vowed to continue scrambling for
votes against his rival contender Alan Leong. Tsang's votes in the
race to be the next chief executive is more than four times the
number received so far by Leong, who said he has been promised 111
Tsang will heed public opinion on democracy: The chief executive
says he will not go against the wishes of the majority of HK people
on universal suffrage. Donald Tsang also said he would strive for
Beijing's approval for a timetable on full democracy if a plan to
represent mainstream political opinion could be arrived at.
Leong enrols for election in historic first: Pan-democrat
legislator Alan Leong has formally registered as a candidate for
the March 25 chief executive election, describing his campaign as
a small but significant step on HK's road to democracy. Most of
the 132 nominations he received from the 800-strong Election Committee
came from avowed supporters of democracy. None were from the business
Rules of engagement drawn up: Forum conveners for the first
chief executive election debate on March 1 have confirmed incumbent
Donald Tsang and challenger Alan Leong will attend - even though
the public will be barred and there will be no cross- questions
between the candidates. By keeping the man in the street out in
the street and eliminating direct questioning, the chief executive
election debate - the first of its kind since the handover in 1997
- looks more like a question-and-answer session in a controlled
environment than a real duel.
Heat increases for Leong election bid: The pro-Beijing Chinese
General Chamber of Commerce has thrown its support behind Chief
Executive Donald Tsang, saying he has the right credentials to govern
HK. The chamber also lambasted his challenger Civic Party legislator
Alan Leong, without naming him, saying his suggestions to eliminate
functional constituencies and give the chief executive the power
to endorse official SAR appointments are warped.
Domestic politics : Universal Suffrage
Tsang sets out his policy stall: now it's time for the haggling:
Donald Tsang announced that his next government would issue a green
paper in the middle of the year to gauge the public's views on universal
suffrage. But his suggestion of a three-month consultation, with
two or three options on universal suffrage presented after June,
drew accusations of delaying tactics. Pressed on whether he would
strive to achieve universal suffrage in 2012, Mr Tsang said: “Like
other HK people, I hope we can achieve the goal of universal suffrage,
as stated in the Basic Law, as soon as possible.”
Tsang pledges action on road to democracy: Chief Executive
Donald Tsang told Election Committee members he had never ruled
out the possibility of full democracy in 2012. "I am even trying
to shorten the process by completing the procedures in the next
few months. I am taking the most active attitude to work on this
issue," he said. But he stressed that democracy "cannot
solve all problems."
Domestic politics : (other matters)
Lawmakers reject public rent cut call: Lawmakers have rejected
a motion calling for further rent cuts for public housing tenants.
The motion, moved by Frederick Fung of the Association for Democracy
and People's Livelihood, proposed that the Housing Authority waive
two months' rent and reduce rents by up to 20%. It was voted down
by more than half of the lawmakers representing the functional constituencies
in the Legislative Council. The motion, if passed, would have cost
the authority HK$4 billion in revenue annually.
Groups march to seek better protection for workers: According
to tradition, the third day of the new lunar year is when arguments
can occur - and this was certainly the case as a number of groups
marched to Government House seeking more protection for workers.
Members of the HK Confederation of Trade Unions called for legislation
on minimum wage, maximum working hours and a pay rise of between
6.5% and 7%. It also called on the government to tighten legislation
to prevent employers absconding with wages unpaid and to improve
Health law proposal targets private property: Under a proposal
put forward by health authorities, the government will have the
power to commandeer private property such as empty homes, vehicles
and medicines to fight disease during a "state of public health
emergency". The amendments are aimed at complying with the
World Health Organisation's International Health Regulation.
More birds test positive: Health authorities confirmed that two
birds found in Mong Kok carried the H5N1 avian influenza virus,
bringing the total number of birds officially declared to be infected
this year to 10.
Bird flu panel says proposals ignored: Advice from a panel
of flu experts suggesting that controls over birds bred in captivity
be tightened has been ignored by the government, a committee member
said. The Centre for Health Protection's Scientific Committee on
Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases has also advised that the government
adopt the European Union's protocols and ban the import of birds
bred in captivity. "The real risk is the illegal bird trade
- bringing in captive wild birds from across the border in poor
condition for various reasons.
Pollution scheme off to hazy start: Shortly after the government
unveiled the long-awaited cross-border emission-trading scheme,
which aims to improve the Pearl River Delta region's worsening air
quality, it was faced with the ultimate irony: HK's own air-pollution
level reached dangerous heights. Thick smog from vehicles and power
plants in the city nudged pollution monitors into the "very
high" level Wednesday. The Environmental Protection Department's
air-pollution index passed the critical 100 mark, which meant that
one or more pollutants were posing immediate health effects to those
with heart or respiratory illnesses.
Business urged to fight warming: HK's business chambers were
urged to join the push for environmental protection or bear responsibility
for the havoc that may be caused by climate change. Brandishing
the first-ever report on climate change implications for the Pearl
River Delta, Civic Exchange think-tank chief executive Christine
Loh and Hoi Ping Ventures president Alexandra Tracy Friday described
climate change as a business issue and one that needs to be addressed
Emission-trading plan draws fire: The lack of controls, scope
and evidence over the pilot Pearl River Delta emission-trading scheme
has left lawmakers fuming. The voluntary nature and the exclusion
of key greenhouse gases in the framework announced January 30 drew
fire from members of the Legislative Council's environmental affairs
panel. Lawmaker Choy So-yuk voiced disappointment with the framework,
saying it will not cut pollution. "Since it is voluntary, there
is no need to take part. How can we expect companies to voluntarily
dip into their pockets? These rules and laws aren't going to reduce
emissions," Choy said.
Guangdong pollution at its worst in decades: Guangdong recorded
its worst air pollution in decades last year despite repeated government
promises to clean up the environment. The average number of smoggy
days, when visibility is below 10km, reached 75 across the province,
up 20% from the 63 days recorded in 2005, according to the "2006
Guangdong Economic and Social Development Statistics Report".
It was the highest figure since 1980.
Macau-based bank still a key piece in the North Korean nuclear
jigsaw: The strange case of Macau's Banco Delta Asia hangs over
the deal to end North Korea's nuclear programme and looks set to
play a key role in the days ahead. Within hours of the deal, US
officials announced that "legitimate" accounts now frozen
in Macau could soon be released - an apparent compromise despite
earlier efforts by Washington to separate North Korean financial
crimes and the nuclear talks.
US officials in talks on sanction-hit bank: A US Treasury
Department delegation was in Macau to resolve sanctions against
a Macau bank accused of helping North Korea launder money - a key
condition in Pyongyang's agreement to give up its nuclear weapons
program. The meeting with Macau officials came about two weeks after
North Korea agreed in six-nation nuclear talks to take initial steps
to abandon its nuclear weapons program in return for aid.
Brain drain fear on low real wage rise: A projected 1.5%
rise in real wages for SAR workers this year due to rising inflation,
coupled with a rapidly narrowing salary gap between HK and the mainland,
has fueled fears of an accelerating northbound migration of management
Experts sound welfare alert over ageing population, wealth gap:
The government will face growing pressure to pay for more social
and medical services due to an ageing population and a widening
wealth gap, experts have warned. Whether taxpayers would ultimately
have to fork out more depended on whether economic growth could
help the government collect more revenue to pay for the services,
the Taxation Institute of HK said. Figures released by the government
showed the median age of the population rose from 34 in 1996 to
39 last year.
Oasis waits for Vancouver route: Budget airline Oasis expects
to get government approval on Friday to start flights on the lucrative
HK-Vancouver route. Oasis applied to the Air Transport Licensing
Authority on February 2 for permission to fly to Vancouver.
Singletons threat to growth: More HK men and women remain
unmarried, further threatening the population's natural growth,
according to official figures released. Many of the unmarried women
had schooling to higher education level.
Warning of airport delays as HK tightens security: Air travellers
have been warned to expect delays next month when tough security
measures come into effect limiting the amount of liquids that can
be carried on board. The Civil Aviation Department said all liquids,
gels and aerosols in cabin baggage would have to be carried in containers
with a capacity not greater than 100 millilitres.
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
Back to the top of the page