Hong Kong’s challenges under the Greater Bay Area

china insights

In terms of economic scale and growth potential, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area are comparable to the world's three largest bay areas. However, there are still many obstacles and challenges in implementation and support. 

The development of the Greater Bay Area should be integrated with logistics flow, capital flow, and information flow. The free flow of talent is the most important. The problem of housing in Hong Kong is severe and property prices are rising rapidly. Some analysts have encouraged Hong Kong people to move to the Greater Bay Area in the belief that it can effectively solve the current housing shortage issue in Hong Kong. However, the problems of transportation, medical care and home ownership that comes with cross-border housing also need to be addressed. With large-scale cross-boundary infrastructure projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link soon to be completed, the distance between Hong Kong and other cities in the Greater Bay Area will be much shortened and transportation time will be greatly trimmed. It is expected that the Greater Bay Area will be built into a ‘one hour living circle’—whereby travelling to and from Hong Kong will only take an hour.

In addition to transportation policies, residence and medical care are also the main issues hindering the free flow of talent
in the Greater Bay Area. In recent years, housing policies in the mainland concerning purchase of properties include measures for restrictions on purchases, on sales, on loans, on foreign sales, and price limits, which target both local and foreign residents. Mortgage is also another hurdle Hong Kong residents have to cross in purchasing mainland properties. Some mainland cities do not allow Hongkongers to take out mortgage loans in local banks, making it more difficult to exchange talents between cities in the Greater Bay Area. It also reduces Hongkongers’ desire to move into the Greater Bay Area. Also, due to the differences in medical systems between the two locales, Hong Kong citizens are not entitled to local Chinese medical benefits as they have not paid medical insurance in the mainland, so their medical expenses are relatively high. Although Hong Kong people have medical insurance in Hong Kong, most hospitals in mainland China do not accept it as it is classified as overseas medical insurance. Generally, patients would need to pay for their medical expenses before applying for compensation.

The integration of the Greater Bay Area is currently the biggest challenge. The Greater Bay Area involves two political and economic systems and three customs regions; the free flow of talent and a smooth logistics for capital and information flow has yet to be achieved in the Bay Area. Apart from cross-border convenience brought by the opening of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, medical and property issues in the mainland are among the critical factors for Hong Kong people looking to move into the Greater Bay Area.  

Previous Issue: An overview of Guangzhou’s residential market in H2 2018