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Archive for January, 2010

 

上星期,內地可能用上海作試點嘗試允許個人海外投資的消息令市場產生了一些混亂。湊巧地,在有關消息出現前,一則引述官方消息的公告卻指出,廣受香港關注的「港股直通車計劃」已於上月正式過期。像往常一樣,這些新聞令到會直接受惠於內地政策放寬的港股市場出現了一些波動。

其實,類似的新聞及謠言是無可避免的,正如內地要將資本帳進一步開放一樣。對這方面發展有興趣的人,無論是什麼原因,都應該從這個角度看待有關事情。也許這樣,他們才可以較準確地評估內地在有關金融領域上政策轉變的可能,以及更重要地準確掌握時機。

內地目前正面對龐大的經常帳盈餘,儘管最近因為環球金融海嘯而下降。因為資本帳的限制,當局需要累積外滙儲備,有關數字截至去年底已接近2萬4千億美元。外滙儲備當然是應付金融危机的有效「彈葯」,但亦有可能因為擁有太多「彈葯」,令到內部金融管理、滙率及其他相關的政策範疇出現困難。什麽才是有效和審慎的方法去處理目前錯綜複雜的問題,仍是有爭議的,但開放一些在資本帳中控制着的項目一定是在政策議程之內的。而我相信,當中一個惹人關注的項目就是允許內地居民海外投資。

內地的儲蓄率是全球最高的。然而,因為內地的金融制度現仍處於初步發展階段,從各種風險與回報的組合而言,可以吸引和滿足這些儲蓄的投資渠道委實是有限的。內地居民希望保障自已,以備將來的需要,這一點部分解釋了內地儲蓄率高企的原因。然而,倘若他們可以投資海外,為自己的儲蓄賺取更加穩定,及經風險調整後較高的回報率,他們可能會更加安心地消費,從而令到儲蓄率下降,國家亦可籍此推動在增長模式上需要的結構改變。倘若內地居民可以到海外投資,他們對外幣的需求亦會增加;換言之,將會減低外滙儲備累積的程度,達到藏匯於民的效果。

我並沒有掌握內地在這一方面最新發展的內幕消息。我估計,容許居民在海外投資,應該是內地金融改革議程上的重要項目。事實上,我記得當我仍在金管局的時候,已經就有關建議向內地提出,希望當局作出考慮。當然,在考慮的過程中,一定會涉及多個單位和不同利益,令事情變得複雜化,使宏觀經濟因素的重要性,因而可能相對下降。「港股直通車計劃」便是一個例子。無論是基於甚麼原因(當中可能包括希望幫助香港),容許內地居民經過一個城市、一間銀行進入一個市場,都會令一個金融設計師對這個基本上是推動開放資本項目的安排感到奇怪,並懷疑這個建議背後的真正動機。其他並沒有被指定的城市、銀行及市場當然亦不會喜歡這個建議,儘管被指定為海外投資的市場會歡喜。

我們並不應時常要求和依靠特殊優惠。內地投資者應該可以選擇把自己的資金投資到那一個市場以及那一些金融產品。當然,我們應該在香港繼續為投資者提供符合國際標準程度的保障,配合內地當局密切監察發展,並協助他們管理源自金融改革開放所出現的風險。倘若我們取得生意最大的份額,這是因為我們是國際金融中心,在金融服務方面擁有競爭力。這亦有可能令更多的海外集資者被吸引到香港吸納內地投資者的資金。

任志剛

 

Last week there was some confusion over whether residents on the Mainland will be allowed to invest overseas, starting with a pilot scheme in Shanghai. Interestingly, this was preceded by a pronouncement, claimed to be from official sources, that the through train idea, which attracted much attention particularly in Hong Kong, had been scrapped. As usual, news of this nature caused a bit of volatility in the Hong Kong stock market, the market that stands to benefit most from the relaxation.

Further news or rumours on this subject are inevitable, just as it is inevitable that the Mainland will embark on further liberalization of the capital account. And for those who are interested in developments on this front, from whichever point of view, they should look at the subject from this angle. Perhaps then they would be in a better position to assess the likelihood and more importantly the timing of any policy change.

What the Mainland faces is a large surplus in the current account, although this has been reduced recently by the global financial crisis. With controls in the capital account, the authorities have to accumulate foreign reserves, which stood at around US$2.4 trillion at the end of last year. Foreign reserves are of course good ammunition for dealing with financial crises, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing, presenting difficulties in the management of domestic monetary conditions, the exchange rate and other related policy areas. While it is debatable as to what are the prudent solutions to the combination of problems so presented, the liberalization of the many items in the capital account that are still subject to control must feature in the policy agenda. And one, I would say, attractive item is the relaxation on outward investment by residents.

The savings rate on the Mainland is among the highest in the world. Yet the avenues for the mobilization of such savings are quite limited, in terms of the spectrum of risk-return combinations available, given that the financial system on the Mainland is still in its early stage of development. This partly explains why the savings rate has to be so high, as residents wish to insure themselves against possible needs in the future. If they were allowed to invest overseas and in the process achieve a more stable, risk-adjusted rate of return for their savings, then perhaps they would feel more comfortable about spending more money, thus bringing down the savings rate and the country would achieve the much needed structural change in its growth model. If residents are allowed to invest overseas, there would also be greater demand for foreign currency from them; in other words the outflow in the capital account that compensates for the current account surplus would shift from the official sector into the household sector, which would reduce the extent of foreign reserve accumulation.

I do not have inside information on the latest developments in this subject. My view is that this should be an important item on the agenda for financial reform on the Mainland. Indeed, I recall raising it for consideration in my HKMA days. Now, it is quite possible that the discussion of this important item, which I am sure involves quite a number of parties, many with different interests, would touch upon considerations other than the all important macroeconomic ones, to the extent of clouding the objective of the matter. Take the through train proposal for example. For whatever reasons (probably including the desire to help Hong Kong), outward investment by residents was intended to be organized through one city, by one bank and into one market. A financial architect could not help feeling strange about the proposed arrangement and wondering what the real purpose of the proposal was. Cities, banks and markets other than the destined one would not like it. The market to which outward investments are directed would love it.

But we really do not need such a special treatment. Mainland investors should be allowed to choose where to invest their money and what to invest in. We should of course continue to provide investors with a measure of protection that meets international standards, and cooperate with the Mainland authorities in closely monitoring developments and assisting them in the management of the risks arising from financial liberalization. If we get the lion’s share of the business, it is because as an international financial centre we are competitive in our financial services. It is also possible that more fund raisers from overseas would be attracted to Hong Kong to tap this money from Mainland investors.

Joseph Yam

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19 January 2010

 

飛龍在天,在龍脊上遨遊的持別感覺,相信行山之友一定能体會。很久未行龍脊了,上星期天有机會一遊,天朗氣清,心曠神怡,加上退休後的輕鬆自由心情,實一樂也。當天中午,從大潭出發,經引水道和土地灣,到脊上已是下午三時許,但脊上仍然熱鬧非常,還有多個滑翔降傘,在与龍共舞。真希望能有膽量一試,可惜已過退休之齡,是避險而不是冒險的時候,而體能亦不足以審慎將風險管理好,唯有向在空中的他們,多熱烈招手,以示鼓勵。很開心有很多行山之友向我問好,要求一同拍照留念,令我感動非常,心裡大膽地將拍照的要求,演譯為市民對我過去工作表現的肯定,有求必應,來而不拒。可惜我沒自備照相机,不能和大家分享情景,希望有當天的行山之友,可將相片電傳給我,留作紀念。

最近去過一次日本九州自駕遊,選了幾張照片在這裏和大家分享。

任志剛

 

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