Friday, May 30, 2014, 08:46
Instability will harm competitiveness, warns academic
By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Social and political instability in Hong Kong will harm its international competitiveness, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) expert said on Thursday.

Professor Ni Pengfei, director of the CASS’s Center for City and Competitiveness, also said he was confident in Hong Kong’s ability to stay ahead of rival cities in the country in future.

Ni held a media briefing in Hong Kong on Thursday to elaborate on the findings of the 2014 China Urban Competitiveness Report on the SAR; it was published earlier this month.

Hong Kong remained the nation’s most competitive city in the latest rankings, despite slipping from 10th to 18th in growth potential. The city had also fallen behind Shenzhen and Beijing in the sub-categories of information technology and knowledge.

Although Hong Kong led the social harmony ranking, Ni admitted this ranking was probably too high because some signs of instability were omitted in nationwide comparisons. He also warned that the “Occupy Central” campaign could undermine ratings of the city’s competitiveness.

“No matter whether it is a country, a region or a city, competitiveness would be out of the question if a stable environment is absent”, said Ni, who declined to elaborate on the “Occupy” campaign.

But Pang Yiu-kai, deputy chairman of Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Hongkong Land, speaking at a separate event to Ni, expressed his concern about the campaign.

Pang stressed that planned protests in Central would not only hinder businesses — but all Hong Kong residents. He warned that any activities which lead to roads being blocked would have negative consequences. Most Hong Kong people want peaceful, constructive behavior, he added.

But while Pang told reporters he was unaware of any businesses in Central preparing to sue “Occupy” campaigners for potential losses, he appealed to the campaign’s organizers to find a less disruptive way to express their concerns.

Meanwhile, Ni said Hong Kong’s low investment in education was another worrying issue. He said this had been disproportionate to its economic output. Ni said there was also a weak link between research and commercial applications in the city.

Hong Kong’s per capita expenditure on education was ranked behind Shenzhen and five other mainland cities. Its university and secondary-school enrolment rate ranked 15th. Hong Kong was ranked fourth as a knowledge-based economy.

Considerable media attention on the annual report revealed Hong Kong’s “very strong” concerns about its recent fall in rankings. But Ni said Hong Kong had a long history of overcoming adversity. He predicted that the enterprising spirit and pragmatism of Hongkongers would help them overcome difficult challenges and stay competitive.