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Speech by S for S at the Conference on Managing New India (with photo)

    Following is the speech by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, at the Conference on "Managing New India" in Kolkata, India today (September 6):

Convention Chairmen, President of AIMA, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It is a great honour for me to be the Guest of Honour of this important conference, which brings together so many of Asia's brightest business minds and decision makers.  In addition to providing an effective platform for participants to share insights and reinforce network, the conference also gives a good opportunity for all of us to visit Kolkata, the cultural capital of India.  I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to the Asian Association of Management Organisations (AAMO) for the invitation, and to the All India Management Association (AIMA) and the Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) for the arrangements.    

Managing New India through Cultivating a Quality Workforce

     It is opportune that we congregate here on the theme of "Managing New India", when India has just celebrated her 60th anniversary of independence.  India has entered a new era of progress, with unprecedented rates of economic growth and social developments in recent years.  For the fiscal year 2006íV2007, India is the second fastest-growing major economy in the world, with a 9.4% GDP growth (Note 1). Its stunning performance in various areas, ranging from the thriving information technology (IT) sector to the film and cultural industry, has been eye-catching.  

     Indian achievements owe no small part to her quality workforce.  A vivid case is Bangalore, India's silicon valley.  Many world-renowned IT companies have business presence in Bangalore, and most of them cite the presence of quality IT experts as their primary consideration for moving there.  To manage the new India and scale new heights, one of the "must do", I believe, is the ongoing cultivation of a quality workforce.  

     Indeed, a quality workforce is not a result of chance or luck, but of strategy and persistent efforts.  Education and human resources development are important pillars.  I take this opportunity to congratulate the organisers of this conference for their efforts in promoting and supporting the development of professional management in India and Asia.  Your quest for management excellence helps keep the Asian miracle in motion.  

Experience of Hong Kong

     Unlike India, Hong Kong is a tiny place with scarce natural resources.  But like India, we have valuable human capital, which we believe is the result of the efforts of our people and the Government.  In the few years before 2004, despite the challenge of government deficit, Hong Kong persisted in enhancing its investment in education.  In the fiscal year 2005-2006, 22% of our public expenditure was spent on education.  

     In parallel with this investment in education, we also welcome people of talent from outside of Hong Kong.  

     The HKSAR Government has been maintaining a liberal immigration regime to encourage people from other parts of the world to come to Hong Kong for visit, employment, study, investment or settlement.  Hong Kong now offers visa-free access to about 170 countries/territories.  Needless to say, Indian nationals are welcome to visit Hong Kong visa-free.

Welcoming to Hong Kong - Our Strengths

     The Hong Kong SAR Government strives to provide a good macro- and micro- environment for its residents, including those coming from abroad.  To name a few of our strengths: world-class infrastructure; rule of law; clean government; level playing field; simple, predictable and, most importantly, low salary and profit tax rates with the ceiling capped at 16% and 17.5% respectively.  These, and many other facets, like freedom of speech, freedom to worship, diversity of lifestyle and cultures, popular use of English and so on, form a conducive cosmopolitan environment to professionals, businesspersons and entrepreneurs.

     And we have one of the world's most promising markets, the Mainland of China, as our hinterland.  Hong Kong's pivotal role as the springboard, or the gateway, to the Mainland is now more and more pronounced than ever.  We have entered with the Mainland a free trade pact, namely the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA).  All Hong Kong goods enjoy zero tariffs when exported to the Mainland, and many trade in services is liberalised ahead of, and some beyond China's WTO commitments.

     With our strengths, Hong Kong is progressing well on the economic front.  We achieved a GDP growth of 7% in 2005 and 2006.  The unemployment rate has dropped to a five-year low at 4.2% at present, and all economic indicators are gaining positive impetus. Inflows of foreign direct investment in 2006 surged to nearly US$43 billion US.  Hong Kong's stock market now ranks the 6th world-wide, with a total capitalisation of about US$2,200 billion.  Hong Kong's fiscal reserves stood at about US$40 billion in 2006.

The Door is Open

     Hong Kong opens its door wide to investors and people of talent.

     For employment, individuals with special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong may apply to work in Hong Kong under the General Employment Scheme.  The only prerequisites are that the individual needs to obtain an employment offer in Hong Kong before entry and the salary is in line with the prevailing market rate of Hong Kong.  Since Hong Kong's re-unification with the Mainland in 1997, some 200,000 professionals around the world have come to Hong Kong through this channel.  

     We also invite investors to settle in Hong Kong under the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme. Applicants under this scheme have to invest just about HK$6.5 million or US$830,000 to settle in the city.  The range of permissible investments is extensive, covering stocks, real estate, funds and term saving.  The investors can freely choose their mix of return and risk.  Since the Scheme's launching in October, 2003, more than 1,300 applications were approved.  They have brought in more than US$1.2 billion to Hong Kong.  Riding on a bullish market in recent years, most of them will not only gain a HKSAR passport but significant monetary returns as well.    

     I would recommend to you all yet another admission channel to Hong Kong life, the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS).  The scheme was launched last year to attract overseas and Mainland talent to Hong Kong.  Applicants are not required to have secured a local employment prior to application or admission.  Applicants are assessed under a point-system basing on objective criteria such as age, language skill, academic attainment/professional qualification and working experience.  Those capable of contributing to Hong Kong's economic development would be screened in.    

     So far, the HKSAR Government has approved the entry of 238 applicants under the QMAS.  All the successful applicants are the cream of the crop from different professions, ranging from the commercial sectors to arts and sports. The professions of the successful applicants include Olympic medallists, world-renowned pianists, investment bankers, financial professionals, linguistic experts, film stars, legal experts, etc.  We do not impose any sectoral quotas for admission.  As long as you are good and competitive, you are in.  

Win-win Situation

     Movement of talent, like trade in goods, is not a zero-sum game, but one that benefits both the originating and the receiving communities.  It is a win-win situation.  These individuals bring home the exposure, experience and wealth acclaimed from abroad. There are many stories of success of this kind in China, and I believe, India as well.  

     This mutually beneficial relationship is particularly evident between India and Hong Kong.  We have a good mix of different ethnic groups, with about 20,000 from India. Many Indians are managers/professionals and entrepreneurs and their numbers include some of Hong Kong's wealthiest families. As of mid-2006, 15 India companies had regional offices in Hong Kong and 17 India companies had local offices there.  Indeed the Indian community in Hong Kong is very much a part of Hong Kong, and a crucial part of our history.  Let me read you the following extracts from the web-page of the Indian consulate in Hong Kong:

(a) One of the larger ethnic groups in Hong Kong, Indians have been in the territory since the 1840s and have shared in the growth as well as problems of Hong Kong.

(b) Traditionally, the Indian community in Hong Kong has been involved in trading, and has been adventurous, scouring markets as far as South America and Africa and establishing links that are still useful. Increasingly, though, Indians have taken to other fields too, with larger numbers of professionals now present in the territory. Shipping, finance, academics, medicine, information technology and management are some of the areas where they have excelled.

(c) The contributions of Indians to building many of Hong Kong's leading institutions, to the governance of Hong Kong, and to its multi-ethnic society, remain a shining example of a small expatriate community working hard to be part of the mainstream, while retaining its identity. Equally, Hong Kong has appreciated these efforts, and the recognition has served to formalise the contribution that has been made, day-after-day, for over 160 years and counting.

     Ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong has much to offer to international investors, professionals and talent.  Investors and tourists are welcome, so are talented and quality migrants.  Hong Kong is definitely a safe and stable place for you and your countrymen to live and realise their potential.  As the Secretary for Security of the HKSAR Government, I can assure you that Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in Asia and indeed, in the world.

Concluding Remarks

     Thank you very much for your kind attention.  I would like to thank our hosts again, and congratulate the AAMO and AIMA on the successful opening of this conference.  I wish the conference continued success.  

Note 1: Statistics obtained from Wikipaedia

Ends/Thursday, September 6, 2007
Issued at HKT 21:01


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