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Hong Kong leader on new property measures attracting foreign talent

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John Lee, CEO of Hong Kong, arrived to deliver the policy speech at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on October 19, 2022.

Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Pictures

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced on Wednesday that he plans to attract talent and investment to the Asian financial center that has lost thousands of residents since the start of the pandemic.

In his first policy speech since taking office in July, Lee said the government would allocate HK$30 billion ($3.8 billion) to attract businesses to the city and launch a so-called high-level talent transition plan to “convince talent to follow suit.” careers in Hong Kong.”

According to an official transcript of his speech, “The local workforce has decreased by nearly 140,000 in the last two years. In addition to actively nurturing and retaining local talent, the government will proactively travel the world for talent.”

of Hong Kong Hang Seng index He made some headway in early trading, but gave up on gains ahead of speech. It traded 1.9% lower after it last dropped 2%.

Attracting foreign talent

Graduates from the world’s top 100 universities earning an annual salary of approximately $318,000 or more and with three years of work experience in the past five years will be eligible for a two-year pass to explore opportunities in Hong Kong. “

Foreigners who enter Hong Kong, purchase a residential property, and become permanent residents under talent attraction programs can apply for a refund of the buyer’s stamp duty and a new residential stamp duty for their first property, Lee said.

The regulation applies to all trading contracts entered from today,” he added.

According to the Ratings and Valuation Department, Hong Kong’s housing prices have seen three-month declines since the third quarter of last year.

Shelter crisis

In his nearly three-hour speech, Lee said Hong Kong’s housing shortage is a longstanding problem for the city and that the government’s “resolving the housing problem is at the top of the agenda”.

The CEO said his administration aims to increase the overall supply of public housing. The government will also aim to reduce the waiting time for public rental housing from currently 6 to 4.5 years.

Shares of real estate companies traded in Hong Kong have given up on previous earnings, as Lee said. Things got mixed up after the lunch break – China Overseas Land and Investment rose 2% and CK Asset was up 0.77%. Country Garden lost 0.71%, Sino Land 0.4%.

Asian financial center

Lee also announced measures to improve Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a financial hub, including making it easier for some companies to be listed in the city.

Stock Exchange operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing will revise listing rules for its main board next year “to facilitate fundraising by high-tech businesses that do not yet meet profit and trade record requirements.”

The government will also develop the technology sector.

“Our goal is to attract no less than 100 high potential or representatives. [innovation and technology] businesses need to establish or expand their business in Hong Kong over the next five years,” he said, adding that this could bring in investment of 10 billion Hong Kong dollars and create job opportunities.

What is Hong Kong's relationship with China?

Covid policy

In terms of Covid policies, Lee said his government is “doing our best to negotiate with the Mainland to make an effort to resume normal cross-border travel on a gradual and regular basis”.

“Our initial goal is to implement a ‘reverse quarantine’ in Hong Kong, also known as a ‘pre-departure quarantine’, where travelers quarantine in Hong Kong before departing for the mainland.

Hong Kong was a British colony before it was handed over to China in 1997 for “one country, two systems” rule. Hong Kong has been promised 50 years of autonomy and enjoys freedoms that other Chinese cities do not have, including limited electoral rights.

Hong Kong lifted mandatory quarantines for travelers last month after nearly two years of Covid-related border control measures. Passengers still need to take multiple Covid tests and monitor their health upon arrival.

Loyal to Beijing, Lee was the only candidate to replace her predecessor, Carrie Lam, in May’s election. About 1,500 members of a largely pro-Beijing selection committee voted, and Lee received 1,416 votes to become Hong Kong’s top leader.

CNBC’s Jihye Lee and Lee Ying Shan contributed to this report.

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