Program would help attract more global investors for participation
Hong Kong is working to list certain investment projects related to the Belt and Road Initiative on the city's stock exchange, as a way to open up the initiative to more global businesses and investors, according to Hong Kong's trade promoter.
The city can serve as a platform connecting interested enterprises with the necessary information and access points to get direct participation in this grand mission, said Vincent H S Lo, chairman of Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
A number of BRI-themed projects are being considered and there may be progress "within six to nine months", said Lo, who is also chairman of property titan Shui On Group.
"With the current complexity in the world, particularly regarding protectionism and unilateralism, the BRI is a very good outlet for globalization and cooperation," he said on the sidelines of the second International Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Governance at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Lo said the packaging of projects into prospective investees and making them available for public trading is "an important step forward", because many infrastructure projects are capital-intensive and might not ensure short-term returns.
"So if we can list the projects on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, then investors can have the option of exit," he said.
According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the financial input needed for global infrastructure investment is estimated to hit a staggering $6.3 trillion per year between 2016 and 2030. Asia alone is estimated to need $1.7 trillion per year, said the Asian Development Bank.
Given the context, Lo said the initiative's sustainability lies in not just the devotion from China, but the active participation of the international market, so that the concept is turned into a viable commercial venture and becomes economically feasible.
"Despite the fact that we actually want to help those in developing countries, certain people would be suspicious and question the purpose behind the investment. So it's imperative we make sure that all parties can participate in the BRI," he said.
Lo said Hong Kong can leverage its position as a global financial center, with its advanced service industries and the rule of law, to draw in corporations across the globe.
Under his stewardship, the trade development council has launched a dedicated website detailing the initiative and projects available. It has also organized an annual forum, now in its third year, exploring opportunities investors have to cash in on the global initiative.
In May, Lo led a delegation of Hong Kong and Shanghai businessmen to four Southeast Asian nations, where they met with top government officials and took a deep dive of prospective projects, such as a highway project linking the north and south of Vietnam.
"For small and medium-sized enterprises, the initiative is simply too large. Individual companies may find it difficult to deal with a new country - that is where the Trade Development Council can help," he said.