Date
24 September 2017
All smiles over the government's policy support for the tech industry but simply giving away money won't do. Photo: HKEJ
All smiles over the government's policy support for the tech industry but simply giving away money won't do. Photo: HKEJ

Why Leung’s approach to tech development won’t work

As expected, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s mediocre policy address has been getting a bad press.

However, it seems all the criticisms don’t bother him. He seems to be in a good mood and pleased about his work.

Leung announced a nine-point program to boost the technology industry, much of it proposed by Nicholas Yang who heads the new Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB).

And Leung promised to work aggressively to help ITB deliver on its promises.

But critics quickly dismissed his ideas as perfunctory and lacking in both innovation and vision.

Perhaps the only one worth mentioning is the HK$2 billion (US$255.7 million) Innovation and Technology Venture Fund under which the government will co-invest in tech startups with private venture capital funds on a matching basis.

At first glance, the fund seems juicy and appealing and shows the government’s commitment to technological development.

However, on closer look, it’s just another way to give away money to please a target audience, something Leung has done numerous times in the past.

As in previous instances, the government justifies the expense by saying it can cut red tape and speed up the application process, resulting in more efficiency. 

But what the government is not telling us is that by spending money in this manner, it’s able to skirt Legco and reward its allies without legislative oversight. 

At the end of the day, unless the government is willing to get to the root of longstanding issues that hinder the development of the tech industry — high land prices and skyrocketing rent — there is no way it can realistically help tech startups.

Giving away short-term subsidies is not enough.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 19.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RA

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal

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