Opportunities to be found in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area

China recently unveiled a national development plan for the bay area that connects Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. To achieve these lofty goals, Macau is developing its strengths and becoming a regional champion

As one of the four core cities of the Greater Bay Area, the Chinese Government's Outline Development Plan seeks to develop Macau into a world-class tourism and leisure centre 

In February 2019, the Chinese Central Government officially released the Outline Development Plan (ODP) for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. The ODP’s strategic objective is to create a vibrant, world-class locality by connecting technology, ecology and culture, as well as the finance, trade and tourism industries, throughout the region. This will be achieved through the joint efforts of the Pearl River Delta’s nine municipalities and two Special Administrative Regions.

Achieving the ODP’s objectives will not be straightforward: the Greater Bay Area consists of one country, two political systems and three customs territories. Reaching the goals will require an unprecedented level of regional cooperation. Every tier of bureaucracy will need to remain focused on the Greater Bay Area’s core tenet: the comprehensive integration and regional coordination of culture, society and the economy. Under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’, the aim is to improve the regional connection of legal and social systems and gradually eliminate the various obstacles that make doing business difficult. This in turn will facilitate the efficient flow of people, goods, capital and information throughout the Greater Bay Area.

As one of the four core cities of the Greater Bay Area, the ODP seeks to develop Macau into a world-class tourism and leisure centre, as well as a hub for commerce and trade that can facilitate relations between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. This will help promote the region’s economic diversification while also creating a base that allows a diverse array of people to coexist. Macau can therefore make a unique contribution to the Greater Bay Area’s transformation into a first-class region for trade and tourism.

Macau plays a vital role in the Greater Bay Area’s progress through its ‘one centre, one platform’ strategic plan

Regional focus
Macau plays a vital role in the Greater Bay Area’s progress through its ‘one centre, one platform’ strategic plan. In particular, the city will utilise its strengths in order to link mainland China with Portuguese-speaking countries, the EU and the Association of South-East Asian Nations. This will firmly establish Macau as a platform for international exchange.

To reach this goal, Macau is implementing policy measures that are designed to construct a Sino-Portuguese economic platform. This includes the development of specialised financial services, the effective use of the Sino-Portuguese Cooperation and Development Fund, and the provision of financing services to Sino-Portuguese enterprises. The region also plans to strengthen its cooperation with the Chinese medicine industry in order to pursue previously untapped international markets. This will include cooperation on research, the cultivation of talent and the widespread application of new technologies.

In addition, Macau will take full advantage of its development as a tourism and leisure hub in order to establish the Greater Bay Area as a world-class travel destination. As Macau already has outstanding tourist facilities, it is now developing as a tourism training and education base for the entire Greater Bay Area. Building on its history of facilitating the coexistence of western and eastern cultures, Macau will, as a result, promote cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world. What’s more, Macau will expedite this development with countries that are part of the One Belt, One Road trade route – particularly those that speak Portuguese.

The ODP’s implementation presents Macau with several opportunities to further its own growth. Macau is small, crowded and has limited space, which restricts further development and economic diversification. Fortunately, however, the ODP has laid several paths that Macau can take in order to ensure its future growth.

One such option is the progressive development of ‘enclave economies’. In other words, Macau could exploit the infrastructure of several bases built in Guangdong, such as the cooperation demonstration zone located in Zhongshan, or the Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park in Hengqin. These provide new spaces for the transformation of Macau’s industry, as well as new destinations for the Macanese people to work and live in.

The ODP also hopes to broaden the living space available to the people of Macau. As such, Macau residents who are currently working and living in Guangdong can enjoy the same benefits as those in mainland China, such as education, medical care, housing and elderly care. This will be further improved by enhancing border clearance facilities and the interconnection of several public services.

Pursuing diversification
The economic structure of Macau is relatively homogeneous, which limits the further development of its economy. Macau, therefore, needs to increase cooperation with the mainland in order to extend its industrial chain while also increasing market integration and sharing resources with other cities in the Greater Bay Area. Given this backdrop, the mission of the Macau Government at present is to develop the locality’s economic diversification, particularly within the field of tourism.

The development of Macau’s tourism industry also supports the growth of related industries, such as retail, commerce and trading, Chinese medicine, culture, and healthcare. To help further this development, Macau is committed to attracting conventions and exhibitions with global influence, particularly those that relate to industries that are part of the One Belt, One Road policy.

Macau’s credentials as a tourism and leisure centre could improve further by developing nearby Hengqin into a leisure and tourism island. This would subsequently support the coordinated development of the Hengqin and Zhuhai free-trade zones and the construction of a Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau logistics park. It could also act as a role model and thus expedite the development of other major projects that require significant regional cooperation.

To promote the idea of Macau as a regional hub, the ODP is in full support of the further development of an international airport in the city, which will be followed by the improvement of regional business aircraft services. The ODP also aims to bring forward the construction of both Guangdong-Macau border access facilities and Hengqin’s port, and suggests better use of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as well. Development of these areas will result in the creation of a rapid transport network that can serve the entire Greater Bay Area.

Finally, the ODP encourages the exploration of sharing utilities across the region, such as connecting electricity, water and gas networks in order to ensure the stable supply of energy. It is also important for Macau to vigorously develop its marine economy in order to lay a solid foundation for the future.

Bigger is better
Macau has several other important roles to play in the development of the Greater Bay Area. The ODP emphasises the growth of a healthy population; as such, it supports Macau’s medical and healthcare providers as they expand their facilities throughout the Pearl River Delta. Through sole proprietorship, joint ventures and other cooperative projects, Macau will lead the development of a regional healthcare cluster. Macau is also encouraged to further develop the Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park and promote the standardisation of Chinese medicine, as well as bring new products and enterprises to One Belt, One Road countries.

There are several benefits to building an open community of innovation and technology throughout the Greater Bay Area. For instance, it will establish collaboration across numerous key areas, such as entrepreneurship, incubation, financial technology and commercial applications. It would also support Macau as a training base for talented entrepreneurs who are fluent in both Chinese and Portuguese, thereby turning the Greater Bay Area into a base for education and training.

Furthermore, the ODP plans to develop the Greater Bay Area into an international financial hub, making it an important component of the One Belt, One Road initiative. To achieve this feat, it encourages the development of Macau into a Sino-Portuguese platform for financial services, while also supporting the development of specialised and green financial products in the city. Moreover, the ODP suggests exploring the development of a Macau-Zhuhai cross-boundary financial cooperation demonstration zone.

To this end, Macau will collaborate with the Silk Road Fund, the China-Latin American Production Capacity Cooperation Investment Fund, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Macau has abundant fiscal reserves with an advanced business network and a good environment for productivity. The region aims to leverage these advantages to develop special products and services, such as finance leases, wealth management tools and new styles of bonds.

ICBC (Macau), the largest locally registered bank in Macau, actively participates in the strategy to develop the Greater Bay Area by promoting the development of Macau’s specialised finance system. In March 2018, the Macau Government and the ICBC Group signed a memorandum of cooperation to this effect. With the support of the Macau Government and the ICBC Group, ICBC (Macau) successfully launched an asset platform for Portuguese-speaking countries in Q2 2018.

ICBC (Macau) will remain focused on Macau’s strategic position in the Greater Bay Area and comply with the development of specialised, Silk Road, green and marine financial products and services. ICBC (Macau) will also assist Macau by playing a leading role in the One Belt, One Road initiative and will contribute to creating a vibrant and internationally competitive city cluster. In no time, the Greater Bay Area will grow to become a globally renowned hub for tourism, business and culture.