Following is the full text of the speech (translated version) by the Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, at the Inauguration Ceremony of the 61st Council of the Hong Kong Construction Association today (March 27):
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very much honoured to join you at the inauguration ceremony of the Hong Kong Construction Association Council tonight.
Founded 81 years ago, the Association has witnessed the transformation of Hong Kong from an insignificant fishing port to a cosmopolitan city. In the course of Hong Kong's development, the construction industry is unparalled in its efforts to, literally, lay down the foundation for our prosperity by constructing buildings, developing the community and undertaking major infrastructure projects.
Your members have made substantial contribution to the development of Hong Kong's economy all along. In the past 10 years, the construction industry accounted for about 5% to 6% of the GDP and employed about 310 000 persons, amounting to 9.5% of our labour force. It was one of the pillars of Hong Kong's economy. Your achievements to the infrastructural development were tremendous. During the past decade, we have reclaimed over 60 square kilometres of land, constructed road networks measuring 1 900 kilometres, developed nine new towns with a capacity to accommodate over 2.8 million people, not to mention the numerous community facilities put into place. Some of these mammoth infrastructural projects have also won us international acclaims. The new airport at Chek Lap Kok, Tsing Ma Bridge and Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre are among the award-winning works. These are the fruit of the hard work of the construction industry, as well as its co-operation with the Government to make Hong Kong a better place to live. While we are proud of our past achievements, we must not allow ourselves to be complacent.
To better prepare ourselves for the future development of Hong Kong, we are working together with the construction industry to further enhance its efficiency and promote professionalism. In this connection, we are considering the introduction of a construction personnel registration system and will continue to implement trade tests. The objective is to upgrade the quality of our workforce. Recently the Construction Industry Review Committee submitted a report to the Chief Executive with 109 improvement proposals covering various aspects. The Government will carefully deliberate on the proposals' feasibility before taking them forward.
Looking ahead, I believe that the local construction industry will continue to grow steadily. The average annual expenditure on public works projects for the next five years amounts to $26 billion to $27 billion, which is comparable to that for the previous five years. The total estimated expenditure on the Public Works Programme, which covers 1 500 projects in a longer timeframe, reaches $300 billion. In addition to the Disney Theme Park, many other major infrastructure projects are in the pipeline and will start from 2002 onwards. They include Route 9 and Route 16 linking Tsing Yi and Sha Tin, Route 10 linking North Lantau and Yuen Long Highway, South East Kowloon Development, as well as Central and Wan Chai Development, etc.
For the Mainland market, China's entry into the World Trade Organization and the development of the Western Region will certainly provide enormous business opportunities for the local industry to give full play to its expertise. The Government has been providing support services to the industry through study tours and seminars, etc organised by the Works Bureau and Trade Development Council. These services enhance the industry's understanding of the development potential of the Mainland construction market and keep them informed of the up-to-date market situation.
I strongly believe that with the close co-operation between the industry and the Government, our construction industry will continue to have a share in the international and Mainland construction markets.
Finally, may I wish the new Council of the Hong Kong Construction Association every success and all members of the Association a prosperous year ahead. Thank you.
End/Tuesday, March 27, 2001