Following is the full text of the speech (English only) by the Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung, at the Gala Dinner for the XIIth World Productivity Congress tonight (November 6):
Dr Supachai, Kenneth, Scott, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to see so many productive people here tonight. I understand the 12th World Productivity Congress got off to a flying start this afternoon. But even here in Hong Kong we have to pause, from time to time, to participate in our favourite pastime. And I am sure after you have spent a few days here, you'll understand why there are only a few things in life we're not prepared to sacrifice - eating is one of them. After all, wasn't it James Thurber who once wrote "Seeing is deceiving. It's eating that's believing!"
I would like to add my voice to those you may have already heard in welcoming you to Hong Kong. I am delighted you have been able to come here to take part in this important Congress which is addressing issues that affect the efforts to further improve the world's productivity.
Today, we are fortunate to have at our fingertips an incredible array of tools that have transformed - and will continue to change - the global business and workplace landscape. Innovation and technology have opened up new ways of increasing efficiency and improving productivity. Wireless Internet, pervasive computing, enterprising streaming, and e-procurement are just some of the new information technology applications. They are helping to streamline business operations and increase output. But, we should never overlook the fact that sometimes, it is the simple ideas that provide us with the best and fairest solutions in tackling the complexities of our era. In other words, it is the human spirit that prevails over computers - the ingenuity of men and women from all walks of life working together for the benefit of our world.
That's why, in a small, externally-oriented economy such as Hong Kong's, people are the single most important factor supporting our development: A development that is turning Hong Kong into a knowledge-based society. Where innovation is the new capital; talent the new machinery; and information the new currency. This is the shape of our new economy. It has already had a marked impact on our manufacturing industry. It is true that many of Hong Kong's production activities have been relocated into southern China. But we have retained many that tend to be more knowledge-based, have higher value-added, and provide greater technology or service content. In the process, our labour productivity in the past decade has risen by an average of around 10 per cent a year.
Driving this change is education and the reforms we are introducing to better equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they will need in the global economy. Providing a learning environment that stimulates curiosity and creativity and makes life-long learning the norm rather than the exception. Indeed education is one of the top priorities of the Chief Executive. He has been leading the education reform in the past four years and increased funding for education in the same period. Last month he also announced further measures to improve the quality of teaching and the environment for learning.
Besides education in the school setting, the Chief Executive also emphasises lifelong learning, the key to success in a knowledge-based economy. He has just set aside HK$5 billion to subsidise those with learning aspirations to pursue continuing education and training programmes. With these measures we will have the people and the talent to spearhead our drive to become Asia's world city. A city that fully utilises information and technology as the key elements in creating wealth and employment.
Ladies and gentlemen, I know you will be discussing cultivating innovation and enhancing productivity in great detail in your Congress agenda, so I don't plan to say any more. And I certainly don't want to keep you from the culinary delights ahead of us. However, I would like once again to say how delighted we are to see you all here in Hong Kong. I sincerely hope you will have a memorable and enjoyable stay here. You'll be surprised at how much is packed into this tiny territory of ours.
End/Tuesday, November 6, 2001