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DGIP speaks at the opening ceremony of AsiaWorld-Expo (English only)

Following is the speech by the Director-General of Investment Promotion, Mr Mike Rowse, who is also the Chairman of the AsiaWorld-Expo, at the opening ceremony of AsiaWorld-Expo this afternoon (December 21):

Chief Executive, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Today marks the end of a very long road that some of us have been travelling together for more than eight years.

It was in 1997 that the Services Promotion Strategy Group, chaired by the then Financial Secretary, asked the Economic Services Bureau to consider the case for providing additional convention facilities.

A consultancy study was subsequently conducted.  It concluded that by 2005 there would be a need for a new facility, but it should be exhibition-based and multi-purpose.  Chek Lap Kok was identified as a suitable location.

The Airport Authority was invited to consider how to take the project forward.  They came back with a firm proposal, which the Government agreed to support.

Subsequently the Government and the Airport Authority conducted an international road show to arouse interest in the project and invited expressions of interest.  On December 20, 2002, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved the $2 billion equity injection.

Tenders were then issued and the final deal was reached with the winning consortium just before midnight on July 12, 2003.  The formal signing ceremony took place in August that year and today here we stand, less than two and a half years later, in this magnificent new centre.

The path has not always been smooth.  During the original consultancy study, doubts were expressed as to whether Hong Kong needed a new facility at all.  Conversely some members of the business community queried whether it would be big enough, or whether it was in the right place.  When we first went to Finance Committee for the funding, on December 21, 2001, the application had to be withdrawn as Members requested further clarification on some matters.  Finally, the tender exercise coincided with the SARS epidemic and several potential tenderers dropped out.  Indeed we in the Government were at one point afraid the whole project might collapse.

But through it all, the key parties kept the faith and held their nerve.

Some of the personalities involved at the beginning of the process are still engaged at the end.

Mr Tsang, who launched the idea in his capacity as Financial Secretary, is here today as Chief Executive to perform the opening ceremony.

The Airport Authority, represented throughout by the Commercial Director Mr Bakker, has been unwavering in its support, for which I would like to thank him.

It would be remiss of me not to make special mention of Mr Nicolas Borit.  He was a member of the original bid team put together by Dragages.  In the process he became so obsessed by the project that he has since stepped aside to head the operating company.  The credit for much of AsiaWorld-Expoˇ¦s success must go to him.

Finally I would like to give credit to our joint venture partners, Dragages and Yu Ming.  They stood firm when others wavered.

To all of these parties, to all of our customers and business partners present and future, and to the ministers represented on the board, thank you for your support.  Together we have created a great asset for Hong Kong that will help to underpin our economic future.

I have left until last a very brief reference to my own role.  It has been my privilege and honour to be associated with this project from first inception right through to final completion.  Initially as Secretary of the Services Promotion Strategy Group.  Later as Commissioner for Tourism when I joined Mr Bakker in the international road show.  And finally as Director-General of Investment Promotion I have been involved throughout the implementation phase, including being chairman of the joint venture company since its formation just over two years ago.  It has been quite a ride.

I began by saying today marked the end of the road.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it marks the end of one chapter in the life of AsiaWorld-Expo.  Now we start a new chapter, the operation phase. The emphasis of our work switches from construction and preparation to filling the centre with new events and giving our customers the high level of service they expect.

I am confident that they will not be disappointed.  I am also confident that the Hong Kong community will be satisfied that their investment has been worthwhile.

Chief Executive, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for joining us here today to celebrate with us the launch of this very special world class facility, AsiaWorld-Expo.

Ends/Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Issued at HKT 18:45


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