Virus biggest strain on Bay economy on first anniversary of development plan
Analysts weigh impact on 1st anniversary of development plan
Published: Feb 18, 2020 08:33 PM

A view of a port in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province in April Photo: CNSphoto

The disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is the biggest strain on the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which was officially set in motion one year ago.

Tuesday marked one year since the central government unveiled an outline plan to develop the Greater Bay Area.

The fallout from the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, however, is currently the biggest uncertainty for the Greater Bay Area, Ding Meng, who is a senior strategist at Bank of China's Macao branch, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Macao has reported no cases of the virus since February 4 and the local authorities announced Monday that casinos in the world's gambling capital will reopen on Thursday after being shut for 15 days to contain the deadly disease. Pubs and karaoke bars, among other entertainment premises, would remain closed though.

The city's economy is reliant on the tourism and gambling sectors, said Ding, noting that it will take time for activity in these sectors to rebound fully. 

He cited a travel suspension affecting tourists from the Chinese mainland planning visits to Hong Kong or Macao. The suspension, which is for an indefinite period, was announced in late January.

The virus outbreak highlighted the significance of the push for diversifying the city's economy toward being powered by sectors other than the gaming business, Ding said. 

As of Tuesday, the disease had sickened 61 in Hong Kong, according to the South China Morning Post. In the case of South China's Guangdong Province, the most virus-battered region in the country outside Hubei Province, there had been 1,328 confirmed cases by Monday, according to the provincial health commission. The epidemic has had an impact on the restart of work and production in the province that can't be ignored.

"It's still unknown when [we'll] resume work, which now needs approval from the provincial authorities," said a sales manager of a paper manufacturing firm in Dongguan who gave his surname as Hu. 

Hong Kong, for its part, has been under tremendous pressure from the virus outbreak following months of social unrest, analysts said. 

In a sign of the damage done by the virus-unrest double whammy, the city's jobless rate rose to 3.4 percent between November 2019 and January, up 0.1 percentage points from the reading for October-December 2019, local official data showed on Tuesday.

The combined unemployment rate in the city's consumption and tourism-related sectors held at 5.2 percent, the highest level in three years, while the number for the construction sector rose to 5.7 percent, the highest in about six years. The local trade and wholesale sectors also saw deterioration of employment.

While the shipping and financial sectors would serve to offset the impact on the local economy of the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong is dependent on its mainland counterpart for growth. That means the revival of the local economy would be contingent upon the nationwide push to contain the epidemic and reinvigorate the economy in its entirety, Ding remarked. 

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