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Speech by SFST at the 22nd Anniversary Ball of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (English only)

   Following is a speech by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Frederick Ma, at the 22nd Anniversary Ball of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association today (November 23) (English only):

Mr Kwan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

    It gives me great pleasure to be part of this evening・s event to celebrate the Hong Kong Retail Management Association・s 22nd anniversary and share the good success its members made over the years.  

    To set the tone of this wonderful evening, as it were, I am happy to note that Hong Kong・s economy is enjoying a sustained and across-the-board expansion with all major economic indicators pointing upwards.  Domestically, the volume of retail sales continued to grow solidly by over 6% in the first nine months of 2005 over a year earlier, supported by an upbeat consumption sentiment, improving employment incomes and further growth in inbound tourism.  Notably, since the implementation of the Individual Visit Scheme in July, 2003, more than nine million Mainland visitors visited Hong Kong under the Scheme as at September this year.  This has generated considerable economic benefits, for our economy and of course including the retail sector, and you will feel these from everyday business.    

    Talking about the close ties between us and the Mainland, I am pleased that, on the financial services front, the renminbi business in Hong Kong has expanded further recently.  Under the new arrangements, designated merchants engaging in personal tourism or consumer service will be able to open renminbi deposit accounts and conduct one-way exchange of their renminbi deposits into Hong Kong dollars.  Designated merchants now comprise those in the retail sales, catering and accommodation sectors and will be expanded to include four more categories. The Government welcomes these arrangements for renminbi business in Hong Kong, as they will facilitate cross-boundary spending by Mainland and Hong Kong residents.  It also helps strengthen Hong Kong・s role as an international financial centre, which is one of the fundamental pillars to sustain Hong Kong・s economic growth which powers the buoyant consumer confidence.    

    It always takes two to tango, not only in this dancing floor, but also in the retail sector.  Whether our consumers would spend more depend very much on your service quality and product innovation.  In this regard, Hong Kong is no doubt a centre for retailing excellence.  Over the past years, many of you, together with the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, have contributed immensely to the success of the retail trade by putting this mission into practice.  It・s because of this unique culture of hospitality and quality assurance that Hong Kong, as Asia・s World City, remains such an enduringly popular destination with visitors from around the world.  With the return of all :feel-good; factors about our economy, the retail sector must redouble its efforts to leverage our competitive edge as a shoppers・ paradise and seize greater opportunities.  Remember the dynamic of growth works both ways, and your contribution definitely counts.  

    Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, let me congratulate the association most warmly on its anniversary.  Let me also wish you all a very pleasant evening, and of course, prosperity in the years to come.  Thank you very much.

Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Issued at HKT 20:30


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