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Updated: May 8

Against a backdrop of growing health problems brought by a rapidly aging population both in Hong Kong and worldwide, which are aggravated by drastic changes in the environment and numerous human genetic mutations, the continuous development of medical technology and innovation plays a crucial role in sustaining health and saving lives.

Hong Kong’s healthcare system and its management are second to none when compared with other developed economies. The Department of Health attaches great importance to fostering partnerships with outstanding healthcare professionals and bodies, both in the city and abroad, in its effort to improve the health of people in Hong Kong. This is also to keep Chief Executive “We Connect” manifesto promise to enhance the role of Chinese medicine in the public healthcare system so as to provide top-quality healthcare services to the public.

The Hospital Authority reported that it used up the HK$49-billion grant from the government for the 2014-15 fiscal year to enhance medical services in public hospitals. In the following fiscal year, demand for medical services continued to rise with the number of inpatient discharges and deaths hitting 1.67 million, a rise of about 4 percent from 2014-15. The number of specialist and general outpatient attendances reached 7.31 million and 5.98 million, respectively. Supported by a relatively small budget, equivalent to just 2.5 percent of Hong Kong’s GDP, the authority serves nearly 90 percent of all inpatient healthcare needs in the city. These contrasting figures reflect the prevalence of chronic diseases on one hand and suggest a shortage of medical staff on the other. It is generally agreed that the Food and Health Bureau should implement a long-term policy on building up professional healthcare manpower, which should include measures to boost the professional development of Chinese medicine practitioners and ensure all locally trained Chinese medicine graduates can be employed in Hong Kong’s public healthcare system.

Since the government is initiating reforms in the healthcare and medical system, it is a good time to consider repositioning Chinese medicine so it can help the medical system cope with rising capacity pressure amid manpower constraints. It is suggested the Hospital Authority and Food and Health Bureau raise the bar for Chinese medicine industry development in Hong Kong; they should seek ways to strengthen cooperation with Chinese mainland hospitals and other medical institutes in areas such as research and development of pharmaceuticals, prescriptions, medical equipment and latest medical technologies as well as providing specialist training for Chinese medicine practitioners; they should also facilitate the exchange of expertise in healthcare management and policy development for medical services in public hospitals. By enhancing cooperation between the sides, Hong Kong can expand the coverage of its healthcare services and strengthen its capacity and capabilities. Ultimately, Chinese medicine will contribute greatly to the continuous improvement and sustainable development of Hong Kong’s healthcare system.

Aiming to provide world-class medical services to Hong Kong residents, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Hong Kong Chinese Medical Science Academy are vigorously engaged in medical and pharmaceutical R&D, especially in colorectal cancer treatment. It is suggested that any R&D achievements on Chinese pharmaceuticals and medical technology should be promoted and exported worldwide so as to facilitate technology transfer and help nurture talents. It is suggested R&D results on minimally invasive surgery will also be promoted across the Asia-Pacific region, particularly to mainland surgeons. More frequent exchange on management experience and technology will help improve the standard and quality of Hong Kong’s medical management and develop the city into an Asian pharmaceutical R&D center.

In developing the city’s healthcare industry, the Hong Kong government is well-advised to encourage investors from other developed economies to invest in the areas of Chinese pharmaceutical products and services. The government may also consider providing financial support to small and medium enterprises in the pharmaceutical industry as incentive to encourage the development of Chinese medicine products and services. It may also encourage startup companies to invest in the area of medical technology R&D to accelerate the development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong. Further development of Chinese pharmaceutical products and services will provide new impetus to Hong Kong’s innovative healthcare system and create new sources of revenue for the special administrative region government’s treasury.

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On Sept 4 2017 President Xi Jinping presided over the ninth summit of BRICS leaders in Xiamen, where he delivered a speech. The main goal of this year's summit was to achieve "stronger partnership for a brighter future". The summit was successful in the sense that it created a roadmap for facilitating economic governance reforms and strengthening win-win cooperation among the five key emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. When the new roadmap rolls out as scheduled, Hong Kong's economy as a whole, and the financial sector in particular, stand to benefit greatly by providing the necessary professional services and financial products. 

In order to meet the strong demand for professional services and financial products arising from rapid growth of trade and investment among these five emerging economies, it is widely believed that the BRICS economies will promote financial market integration by expanding the network of financial institutions and coverage of financial services within BRICS countries. For example, BRICS leaders have agreed to explore and promote the convergence of auditing regulations and accounting standards on bond issuance to lay the foundation for bond-market connectivity among the five emerging economies. Hong Kong's advantageous position arising from its relationship with the Chinese mainland and its prominent role as a global financial and trading center are among the favorable factors to entice more companies from BRICS countries to set up operations and invest in Hong Kong. The numerous international financial institutions operating in the city offer a wide range of services, including fundraising and financing, fund and asset management, loan syndication, foreign-exchange trading and international insurance.

Based on BRICS countries' existing regulatory frameworks and World Trade Organization obligations, BRICS countries have also agreed to implement international standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism and its proliferation under the Financial Action Task Force framework. Hong Kong has a robust legal system with an independent judiciary. The city's dynamic cluster of local and international law firms, as well as management consultants, offer a wide range of professional services to a variety of business sectors, including trade, finance and investment. These professionals have gained insight into international arbitration expertise and provide practical advice on legal and risk matters. Hong Kong's project financiers and practitioners are skilled at advising, arranging and underwriting financing in a number of different currencies and disciplines including renminbi bonds and Islamic bonds. They are capable of providing prominent and professional services, as well as the expertise in banking and financial regulations, legal systems, international accounting standards, fintech policies, logistics services and emerging industries such as innovation and technology sectors.

The BRICS summit is expected to help accelerate the rollout of the Belt and Road Initiative. BRICS countries, particularly South Africa, Brazil and Russia, strongly support the Belt and Road Initiative. It is generally believed that China's massive investment in and trade with the Belt and Road countries will help speed up the globalization of renminbi. Hong Kong possesses unique competitive advantages in promoting renminbi business globally. The city has the world's largest offshore pool of renminbi liquidity and its renminbi bond market is the largest outside the mainland. These factors will help strengthen Hong Kong's position as the premier offshore renminbi business center and its significant role in helping renminbi become a fully convertible global currency. The city's robust renminbi business in turn will help maintain its competitiveness and strengthen its position as a major international financial center.

Moreover, BRICS economies will strive to seize opportunities brought by the multilateral trading regime favored by the Belt and Road Initiative, which encourages exploration of new models for practical cooperation. The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (SEHK) was the top initial public offering fundraising exchange last year. SEHK has positioned itself as one of the key global financial exchange centers, supported by well-thought policies and a sophisticated regulatory system. SEHK's listing platform has attracted numerous mainland companies and is likely to attract companies from other BRICS economies. It provides a good channel for international investors, including those from Belt and Road countries, to invest indirectly in the various industries of the mainland by trading shares of locally listed Hong Kong and mainland companies. The large demand for funding and financial services would help boost the development of Hong Kong's banking industry: More global banks and those from other BRICS economies are likely to be enticed to operate in Hong Kong.

Cooperation among BRICS countries is set to create many economic opportunities for each and help safeguard the common interests. And Hong Kong can also benefit from closer economic ties among BRICS countries by leveraging its competitive advantages in facilitating connectivity in trade, investment, professionals and finance.

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