ASIA: Hong Kong's Finance Minister seeks to collaborate, not compete with Singapore for regional economic prosperity.

As published on theedgesingapore.com, Thursday 30 March, 2023.

The rivalry between Singapore and Hong Kong as Asia’s business hub is a “sexy topic” that “always gets to be on the front page of the media”, but the two cities have to collaborate in order to benefit in the long term, says Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po.

Chan was speaking at a public lecture at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on March 29, on the topic of Hong Kong and Asean economic partnerships in the post-Covid-19 era. This is his first diplomatic trip since Hong Kong lifted its travel restrictions last December.

Chan began by saying that recent geopolitical tensions have suggested onshoring, reshoring and friendshoring, but regardless of the situation, a partnership with China cannot be ignored.

Citing Hong Kong and Singapore as cities that can bridge the gap between China and the rest of the world, he said the two countries can “be their connector, their advisor, their risk manager”.

“In that process, we are both rich in capital,” he says. “That is the value proposition for Singapore and for us."

In his LinkedIn post on his meeting with Chan, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong alludes to the constant perception of rivalry between the two.

"We are not in a zero-sum competition. We embrace healthy competition which motivates both sides to excel," says Wong, who is also Singapore’s finance minister.

“At the same we continue to collaborate in many areas, and we continually exchange notes to learn from each other," he adds.

Chan, who has been the Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government since 2017, reflected on the effect of the 2019 protests and the last three years of Covid-19 on the city’s economy.

“A lot of our energy has been spent on internal political conflict, not productive,” he laments.

Highlighting the enactment of the National Security Law in 2021, Chan said that Hong Kong’s focus moving forward will be on economic development to try and catch up for lost time.

In his pitch to woo investments to Hong Kong, Chan touched on three areas of focus for the country moving forward — embracing digital transformations, better regulations for web3 developments, and green technology.

Hong Kong claims to be the leading city in Asia for green technology, having issued green bonds back in 2021 and 2022 worth some US$87 billion ($115.61 billion). But Chan stresses that this is not enough, and estimates that the funding gap in the coming 13 years will amount to US$33 trillion dollars.

Noting that Hong Kong now knows what it wants to achieve, but is unable to achieve it on its own. Reiterating business-friendly regimes and talent programs, Chan sends a strong message about the country’s commitment to courting strategic enterprises and top talents around the world.

“We would like to reconnect with our friends and partners in the region and around the world so that we can work together to benefit from the economic growth of this region and prosper together,” he says.

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