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Thursday, February 28, 2019, 10:36
Wide-ranging measures to boost HK's role in Bay Area
By Edith Lu
Thursday, February 28, 2019, 10:36 By Edith Lu

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po (second left) and other officials brief the press after presenting the 2019-20 Budget on Feb 27, 2019. With an eye on the Guandong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area blueprint unveiled on Feb 18, the budget laid out measures to burnish the city's edge in areas like finance, transport, trade and aviation. (EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY)

The 2019-20 Budget has proposed a wide range of measures relating to the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area - focusing on financial services, innovation and technology as well as aviation.

Chan said during his speech Hong Kong will explore expansion of channels for two-way flow of cross-boundary renminbi funds to strengthen its role as a global offshore renminbi business hub

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po mentioned “Greater Bay Area” 18 times when delivering his second financial budget to the Legislative Council on Wednesday. He stressed that it was a golden opportunity for Hong Kong to explore new directions.

READ MORE: A 'balanced, forward-looking' budget

The special administrative region was positioned as international financial, transport and trade centers as well as an international aviation hub, according to the outline development plan for the Bay Area unveiled last week.

In line with the blueprint, Chan said during his speech Hong Kong will explore expansion of channels for two-way flow of cross-boundary renminbi funds to strengthen its role as a global offshore renminbi business hub.

Mutual access with the Chinese mainland will also be actively promoted. Chan said the Bond Connect could be extended to cover southbound trading.

Discussing innovation and technology, he said the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park located at the Lok Ma Chau Loop will become a base for I&T development in Hong Kong. Some HK$20 billion was set aside for the first stage of construction work last financial year - which is now in progress.

ALSO READ: Extra HK$50b push for SAR to realize its tech hub dream

A government source said the park will be built as an international I&T center for Bay Area, as it could use Hong Kong’s lab resources and national scientific project funds.

In addition, the government will continue to offer profits tax breaks to aircraft leasing businesses to attract more companies and enhance its competitiveness in aviation business. With the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge nearby, the adjacent Lantau Island has become a "double gateway" connecting the world and Bay Area cities.

Local aircraft leasing companies are now having discussions with airline companies from the mainland, Korea, Chile, Indonesia and Qatar, revealed a government source.

Agnes Wong, tax partner at PwC Hong Kong, said financial services, I&T and aviation sectors have long been Hong Kong’s traditional strengths. She said the government trying to improve these industries would not only serve the needs of the Bay Area, but would help the city’s long-term development.

The government plans to allocate HK$111 million to set up a Bay Area development office. Of the amount, HK$28 million will be used for hiring 19 people for the office such as press officers. 

According to a government source, the funding submission will be put to the Legislative Council’s panel on commerce and industry on March 19. She said they were confident they could win approval and get appropriation before the summer recess. Personnel for the office will be finally confirmed in April.

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