Following is the full text of the speech (English only) by the Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, at the opening of the Joint Professional Centre today (January 8):
Mr Lau, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you today for the opening of this innovative addition to Hong Kong's services sector - the Joint Professional Centre. Indeed it is most inspiring to start the new year with a new venture that holds as much promise as this one.
Over the past four decades, Hong Kong has transformed itself from a manufacturing centre into a services hub. Where once we produced batteries to power the torches and toys manufactured here, today we provide the brain power that keeps companies running efficiently and professionally in Hong Kong and throughout the entire region. The extent of this is seen in Hong Kong's ranking as the world's 10th largest exporter of services. In 1999, we exported nearly US$36 billion worth of services, the equivalent of 23% of our GDP - a significant ratio by international standards but even more so for a community of just under 7 million people. Professionals in various disciplines have played a key role in helping Hong Kong attain these achievements.
I would like to assure Mr Lau, and everyone here today, that the HKSAR Government shares your commitment to promoting our service industries here and abroad. We have a network of economic and trade offices overseas that do just that, in addition to the more than 70 overseas offices and consultant offices maintained by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Hong Kong Tourist Association. These include 13 offices in the Mainland promoting Hong Kong's interests. The Trade Development Council also provides a wide range of information and analysis on the Mainland market which make useful reference for companies and professionals interested in the Mainland market. I myself will be leading a business delegation to the Mainland in May to further enhance contacts between Mainland and Hong Kong companies, and to obtain a deeper understanding of where and how Hong Kong's particular strengths - the services sector immediately springs to mind - can be best used for mutual advantage. And indeed looking back the records, in response to what Mr Lau had said , the works Bureau of the SAR Government has organised no less than 7 seminars and 6 study missions since 1996. The TDC has also been organising various activities. In year 2000 alone, there were altogether ten programmes, including seminars and visits for professional services sector specifically for the mainland market.
The government is always ready to explore new ways in which we can work more closely with the private sector to enhance and strengthen our economic competitiveness. The saliant point which Mr Lau mentioned about procurement system, we are certainly ready to listen. We must at all times try to balance the sectoral interest of professionals on the one hand and the overall interest of Hong Kong on the other. Our Services Promotion Strategy Group works together with business and professionals to set priorities for the promotion and development of our services industries. As chairman of that group, I am more than happy to listen to any views or ideas which may be able to boost the already strong ties that exist between government and business in Hong Kong. Indeed, the opening of the JPC today is the best example of this public and private sector partnership at work. The government's Business Services Promotion Unit, the Land Development Corporation and the Hong Kong Coalition of Services Industries all worked very closely on this project.
I am sure that the JPC will build on these solid foundations. It will be well-positioned to serve as a catalyst for various professions to work more closely together to further promote our strengths as a global and regional services centre. With the support of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, the JPC will enhance collaboration among the professions, and harness the use of information technology to boost efficiency. This will undoubtedly help Hong Kong remain at the forefront of international cities. By drawing on the relative strengths and experience of its members, the JPC will also develop as a valuable resource for local companies and help them to better compete in the global market.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Lau, the 10 founding members and all the parties concerned for bringing the JPC to fruition. You have done a marvelous job in establishing these modern premises and facilities here at The Centre. I am sure that, in the years ahead, the JPC will play a very important role in enhancing the service quality and competitiveness of our vitally important, and growing, services sector. I wish you all the very best for the future and particularly a very successful 2001.
End/Monday, January 8, 2001