Hong Kong plans $3.8 billion investment for global talent to avert Covid brain drain

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CNN Business

Hong Kong wants international companies to know it’s business.

The city’s leader, chief executive John Lee, announced on Wednesday that the government would allocate 30 billion Hong Kong dollars ($3.8 billion) to a new fund aimed at attracting more businesses.

The fund will seek to induce businesses to locate in Hong Kong, as well as invest in their businesses, he said in a wide-ranging policy speech.

The move comes after the city witnessed a mass exodus amid some of the world’s toughest pandemic controls, which were recently eased after more than two years. In August, Hong Kong recorded its biggest population decline since authorities began tracking these numbers in 1961.

Lee addressed the record drop on Wednesday, noting, « Over the past two years, the local workforce has shrunk by about 140,000. »

« In addition to actively nurturing and retaining local talent, the government will proactively scour the world for talent, » the chief executive added.

Lee too announced on Wednesday the launch of an initiative to attract more workers, including some high earners and graduates of the world’s top 100 universities.

Eligible candidates « will be given a two-year pass to explore opportunities in Hong Kong », he said.

That should be a welcome relief for Hong Kong businesses, which had long warned of a brain drain.

Prior to the recent removal of quarantine measures, many workers had expressed frustration with the city’s onerous travel restrictions, which at one point required up to 21 days of hotel quarantine.

The measures have hurt the city’s economy and led many multinationals and expats to relocate – or consider moving – elsewhere.

Hong Kong is the Asian base for many multinational corporations, including the biggest banks and financial companies. The former British colony is traditionally seen as a friendly international gateway to mainland China.

In recent years, its reputation for openness and ease of doing business has crumbled, as rival hub Singapore has taken the lead.

Hong Kong is working to change this perception, stepping up its efforts to rebuild its status as a global trading and financial hub.

Next month, city officials will host some of Wall Street’s top executives for a long-awaited financial summit. Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO David Solomon, Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO James Gorman, Standard Chartered (SCBFF) CEO Bill Winters and HSBC (HSBC) CEO Noel Quinn are among those expected.

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