A World Bank report says that the pro-democracy have not had an adverse effect on the city's business climate, even as senior officials in the city warn that the protests are hurting the economy.
In its annual “Doing Business” report, which tracks the ease of doing business in different countries and was released Wednesday, the bank ranked Hong Kong third on its table of 189 countries.
"Right now, the pro-democracy campaign does not appear to have an impact on the overall business confidence," Wendy Werner, manager for trade and competitiveness at the World Bank Group told the South China Morning Post.
"From what we can see here, as long as transparency is strong, there's good corporate governance rules, and we have business-friendly rules and regulations, the investment climate really should stay intact, and that seems to be the case right now [in Hong Kong]," Werner said.
The report examines a raft of regulatory and governance factors, but does not include market confidence as a factor in determining its rankings.
The news came as Joseph Yam, a former head of Hong Kong's central bank, warned that China could “Punish” Hong Kong for the pro-democracy protests, which has paralyzed key areas of the city for over a month.
“Hong Kong's economic prosperity was built on its intermediary role between the mainland and overseas, especially in the financial realm," said Yam, according to Reuters. “[When] the intermediary is uncooperative, unreliable, trouble-making, the mainland will for sure reduce reliance, make a fresh start at another place, have two strings to its bow and lessen preferential policies toward Hong Kong amid the economic reform process.”
Chinese media have echoed these sentiments, reports citing predictions that protests could cost the city billions of Hong Kong dollars a day.
Yam's was not the first prediction of economic doom to be associated with protests in the city. Greg So, Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, warned earlier this month that the city's tourism industry would be badly affected by the demonstrations.
However, data from Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council showed that, if anything, the protests seem to have piqued the interests of tourists from mainland China. The number of tour groups visiting the city on any given day between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22 was 380, according to Council data cited by Bloomberg, which represents a 90 percent rise on the same period last year.