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任志剛:國際金融中心地位與貨幣金融穩定

2017/9/14 — 15:45

香港國際金融中心地位與貨幣金融穩定

保持香港的國際金融中心地位是《基本法》的要求。保持香港貨幣金融體系的穩定健全是維護大眾利益的重要環節。兩者雖然表面上關係不明顯,但實際上互相影響,需要留心在同時兼顧這兩項重要目標時的挑戰。有見及此,早在九七前已經作出部署,修改了《外匯基金條例》,列明第3(1A) 條「可為保持香港作為國際金融中心的地位,按其認為適當而運用外匯基金以保持香港貨幣金融體系的穩定健全」。

我曾指出香港國際金融中心地位的獨特性,與其他國際金融中心相比,香港的國際化程度可以說是最高的。原因是投資者和集資者兩個資金融通的組成部份,都主要是來自境外。現時香港已是內地企業籌集外地資金的首要場地。當內地對資金外流的擔心減退,也讓投資者規範地多走出去,香港亦有望成為外地企業籌集內地資金的重要場地。

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在這環境下,挑戰會出現。先從「相對流量」的角度分析:香港是個細小的經濟體,但在香港以港幣作為交易單位所進行的國際金融活動的成交量,卻相對地遠遠大於本地經濟的規模。因此,國際金融活動的流量變化對香港經濟的影響,尤其是在貨幣金融穩定方面,是強大和不容忽視的。隨著內地投資者及集資者在資本項目進一步放寬下多走出去,這個差距將會越來越大,隨之而來對貨幣金融穩定的風險亦會增加。

再從「波動性」的角度分析:外地投資者和集資者的活動,不單受香港的各種因素影響,更大的影響會源於他們本土各種不同的變化,包括複雜的地緣政治、經濟及政策等。香港國際金融中心的國際化程度極高,面對外資流入及流出金融體系和港元所產生的波動,會較其他國際金融中心所面對的為高,這亦為香港保持貨幣金融穩定帶來較大和不尋常的挑戰。

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我曾經說過,要求一個700萬人經濟體的貨幣,為一個13億人屬全球第二大經濟體的內地與外地之間的資金活動,提供融通服務,作為交易媒介,是不切實際的。因此,香港保持貨幣金融穩定所面對的挑戰日益增加,需要小心處理。其實,內地與外地的投資者和集資者,也許亦會關心他們自己利用港元作交易時承受的貨幣風險和進行貨幣對沖的有效性。假如他們有憂慮的話,將會局限香港國際金融中心進一步的發展。

這一個貨幣穩定的挑戰需要及早思考,不能等到危機出現才處理。如果投資者及集資者是利用港元以外的貨幣,例如他們的本土貨幣來作為交易單位,在香港進行國際金融活動,便不需要承受任何貨幣風險。現時香港的人民幣、美元及歐元即時支付系統已經運作多年,使用這些貨幣如同使用港元一樣方便。作為處理貨幣穩定挑戰的第一步,除港元外,香港的股票市場可以引進用人民幣計價、交易及結算。此舉亦會有助人民幣進一步國際化,跟內地的政策目標一致,還有助香港銀行更有效率地配對他們的人民幣資產和負債。

任志剛
2017年9月14日

International Financial Centre and Monetary and Financial Stability

The maintenance of the status of Hong Kong as an international financial centre is a requirement laid down in the Basic Law. The maintenance of monetary and financial stability is absolutely in the public interest. It is not obvious that there is a relationship between the two tasks. But there is, and we need to be alert to the dilemma between the two important objectives. I can remember recognizing this and amending the Exchange Fund Ordinance before 1997 to make it possible, with a view to maintaining Hong Kong as an international financial centre, to use the Fund to maintain the stability and the integrity of the monetary and financial systems of Hong Kong.

I have argued before that Hong Kong, as an international financial centre, is special, in that it is probably, or has the potential to be, the most international of financial centres in the world. Both the two legs of financial intermediation – investors and fund raisers – are, or are becoming, predominantly foreign. Hong Kong is already the centre for Mainland enterprises to raise money from the rest of the world. And hopefully when there is less concern about uncontrolled capital outflow from the Mainland, Hong Kong can also be the choice centre for enterprises from the rest of the world to raise money from the Mainland.

The domestic economy of Hong Kong is small. The volume of international financial activities conducted in Hong Kong and denominated in the Hong Kong dollar is huge. Behaviour of the latter has significant effects on the former and these should not be overlooked. Assuming further relaxation of capital account controls on the Mainland, allowing investors to access overseas investment opportunities and fund raisers to tape foreign money through the use of financial markets in Hong Kong, the volume contrast between the two will become even more pronounced.

The behavior of foreign money, whether in the hands of investors or fund raisers, is understandably influenced by foreign considerations as well as those of Hong Kong. Consequently, it is prudent to assume that the volatility and volume of capital flows in and out of the financial system of Hong Kong are higher than in other jurisdictions, presenting higher risks to financial stability. And if much of the financial activities of such foreign money conducted in Hong Kong are denominated in Hong Kong dollar, then there are risks for monetary stability in Hong Kong as well. Herein lies the dilemma between the objectives in the maintenance of the status of Hong Kong as an international financial centre and in the maintenance of monetary stability.

All international financial centres are exposed to these risks and face such a dilemma, but it is a matter of degree. The circumstances of Hong Kong are such that this dilemma is much more pronounced. I have said before that it would be unrealistic to expect the currency system of an economy of seven million people to have the capacity to serve well the international financial activities between an economy of 1.3 billion people (second largest and soon to be the largest) and the rest of the world. Users of our financial services may soon become concerned about that capacity, specifically the currency risk that they are assuming and the effectiveness of the hedging, if any, that they can undertake. These concerns may well constrain our further development as an international financial centre. And we ourselves, as we work to expand our role as an international financial centre, should also be alert to our increasing vulnerability to monetary stability.

This monetary dilemma should be addressed ahead of time, and certainly not in the context of a crisis. There is no need for foreign investors and fund raisers to take currency risk if their international financial activities can be conducted in other currencies of their choice, for example their home currencies, as conveniently as they are now conducted in Hong Kong dollar. Most of the financial infrastructure to facilitate this is already in place – the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) systems for the renminbi, the US dollar and the euro, for example, were built years ago. As a start in addressing this monetary dilemma, it may be wise to make it conveniently possible for stocks listed in Hong Kong to be priced, traded and settled in the renminbi as well as in Hong Kong dollar. This move would have the added advantage of facilitating the further internationalization of the renminbi, in accordance with the declared policy objective of the Mainland. It would also enable banks in Hong Kong to manage their renminbi assets and liabilities more effectively.

Joseph Yam
14 September 2017

(原刊於任志剛網誌

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