Views from Hong Kong
by Matthew Carr, Managing Director APAC, Illuminas Global
The last time I wrote one of these articles we were just entering the business end of the GFC. Two years on and Hong Kong’s energy and pragmatism are undimmed – as illustrated by economic data. Numbers of unemployed are now back down to where they were at the end of 2008. Consumer spending fell off a cliff before rebounding very strongly to where it is now with many discretionary purchases simply being delayed…you just can’t stop Hong Kong shoppers.
The economy is also boosted by the large numbers of tourists from the Mainland and other buoyant Asian economies. What they see when they get here has changed too – the ICC (International Commerce Centre) topped out in 2010 at 118 floors and the striking Stonecutters Bridge was opened to traffic at the end of 2009.
The pace of change is not letting up. Massive infrastructure projects (such as the 50 km series of bridges/tunnels which will link Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau) have been started in the last two years. The development of the Pearl River Delta (a 12 year plan) is likely to see Hong Kong cement its unique role in the transfer of ideas, capital and business between China and its global trading partners.
In the face of all this change you can, after a hard day at work driving the global economy, sit on a creaking plastic chair under a slimy tarpaulin and indulge in what the nearest open air food stall (dai pai dong) has to offer (recommended for offal fans). These shabby stalls and the surrounding glass and steel towers exemplify the contrasts which, in our humble view, are central to Hong Kong’s identity. Constant change and contrast – it’s a researcher’s dream.