Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Henry Tang, at the presentation ceremony of the 2003 Hong Kong Awards for Services at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this evening (January 5) (English only):
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening and Happy New Year. It is indeed a pleasure to be here tonight for the presentation ceremony of the Hong Kong Awards for Services. I am very much delighted that my first major public function of 2004 is to honour leaders and innovators from the services sector for your outstanding contributions to Hong Kong's economic success.
Over the past decade, Hong Kong has transformed itself into a high value-added services centre, not only for Asia but for the entire world. There are now more than 270,000 service companies in Hong Kong, generating over $1 trillion, or 87 per cent of our GDP. The Government is fully committed to facilitating the development and growth of our services industry by providing a business-friendly environment and world-class infrastructure.
Last year was a challenging one for Hong Kong, particularly for our services industry. Yet, you have once again demonstrated your perseverance, professionalism and competitiveness in meeting and overcoming these challenges. I wish to thank you for your efforts and your devotion. Our economy has rebounded faster than expected and is starting the New Year on a much stronger note.
I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects for Hong Kong's economy in 2004. As you know, CEPA came into effect a few days ago. Hong Kong services providers in 18 sectors can now enjoy first-mover advantage to enter the vast Mainland market, and our services industry will see more and more cross-border business opportunities. And yet, you are still facing numerous challenges, such as high thresholds, unfamiliar business practices, and other non-tariff barriers. I wish to reiterate that both the Mainland and Hong Kong are committed to work together to ensure a smooth implementation of CEPA.
I am pleased to note that the 2003 Hong Kong Awards for Services received a total of 175 applications, a record number of entries since the Awards' inception in 1997. This speaks volumes about the service sector's unwavering commitment to excellence. The winners have demonstrated outstanding achievements in the fields of innovation, productivity, customer service, tourism services, and export marketing. They represent the best of Hong Kong's services industry and stand as role models for others.
I must thank the Chairman of the judging panel, the Hon. C Y Leung, and the other judges for taking on the difficult task of selecting winners among so many deserving entrants. I also want to thank all the parties involved in making this year's Awards another resounding success, particularly the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Productivity Council, the Retail Management Association, the Tourism Board and the Trade Development Council. My best wishes to all of you for a prosperous and rewarding 2004.
Ends/Monday, January 5, 2004