A former Executive Council member said Hong Kong people’s intolerance toward new immigrants and tourists from mainland China will lead to economic downturn and loss of opportunities, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Friday.
Franklin Lam, the founder of think tank HKGolden50, said the city is currently suffering from land shortage and shrinking labor force, and its attitude towards mainlanders would not help in easing these problems.
It is ethically wrong for the city to discriminate against students, new immigrants and visitors from the mainland, said Lam, who resigned from the Executive Council last year.
If such an attitude towards mainlanders continued, Hong Kong would lose the opportunities brought by the influx of mainland tourists in six to eight years, and international brands, which are generating huge revenues from these tourists, would simply pack up and go elsewhere, Lam warned.
However, the number of mainland tourists in the city actually grew by three million in the first half of this year, economist Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu said.
Lam said mainland immigrants, who account for about one-seventh of Hong Kong’s more than seven million people, are contributing to easing the labor shortage in the city. Without them, the problems associated with an aging population would have been felt as early as 2001, even earlier than in Japan, he said.
More than 40 million visitors spent a combined HK$332 billion (US$42.84 billion) in the city last year, and 75 percent of them are mainlanders.
The government plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure to support the tourism sector. These investments include an 11 million sq ft commercial center at the airport and a 2 million sq ft underground shopping mall in the West Kowloon Cultural District.
There are also plans to develop Tung Chung into a new town of 700,000 people and increase support for the Vocational Training Council and the Employees Retraining Board to enable them to to train an additional 40,000 people every year.
On the other hand, there is an urgent need to build nine hospitals to provide an extra 19,000 beds, train 8,000 doctors and boost services by 60 percent to cope with an aging population that is expected to increase the demand for medical services, Lam said.
He also urged the government to build elderly care centers in Hong Kong’s 18 districts, while expanding the scale of private health and medical system by three times, thus making private hospitals one of the city’s top five industries.
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