Following is the full text of the speech delivered by the Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, at the opening session of "The Servicing Economy - Quad Forum 1999" today (Monday):
Stanley (Ko), Professor (Y C) Cheng, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be here once again. I am delighted to see such a distinguished group for the third annual Economic Forum. The last two meetings were tri-partite, with the participation of academics, businessmen and government officials. Today we welcome for the first time another important "leg" of the Hong Kong economic horse - the politicians.
We have seen quite a number of positive and exciting developments in the past few weeks. Our GDP has grown by 4.5% year-on-year in the third quarter. For the year as a whole, we shall be able to achieve a growth rate of 1.8%. We are also pleased that the Disney agreement has just been approved by both Legco and Disney's Board of Directors. Of course, the most exciting of all is seeing China at the very doorstep of WTO. This is a very important milestone in the liberalisation of world trade.
This is a special time indeed. We are coming out of the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis which has left us more alert about who we are, what we are doing and what we should do, and, more particularly, where we are going. We are at the threshold of a new century when there will be further globalisation of trade and services and where e-commerce will dominate. What do all these mean for Hong Kong? What opportunities and challenges do they present to Hong Kong?
I am an optimist and I have reasons to be so. We have very solid physical and financial infrastructures. We have the rule of law and free flow of information. We have a long tradition of entrepreneurship and free markets. We possess the special geographical advantage as the gateway to China. We have good knowledge and experience of the Mainland market. I have confidence therefore that we will reap harvest from the Cyberport project, the Disney theme park, and all the other initiatives we are implementing. We will also benefit from China's WTO membership and the resulting increase in trade in both goods and services.
Let me qualify my confidence just a touch. That would only be the case if we stay competitive. Past success does not guarantee future economic security. We cannot afford to be complacent. Other cities will eventually become more financially and economically sophisticated. We need to build on our strengths and seize opportunities on offer. We need to move along, sharpen our competitive edge, or be left behind in the bold new world of global marketing.
So what should we do to maintain our leading edge and outpace our competitors? With only 33 days to go before the beginning of a new millennium, it is timely for us to explore the challenges that lie ahead, to consolidate strengths and tackle weaknesses.
Indeed, there have been quite a number of forums and seminars to put heads together to identify ways to strengthen our economy. We have just had the Chief Executive's Council of International Advisors meeting for the second time in Hong Kong two weeks ago. Shortly before that, the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong held a seminar on Hong Kong's Economic Future last month. I know the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce is going to hold its Business Summit a week from now, and our Central Policy Unit is holding a forum on SMEs in early December.
So the ideas are there, the enthusiasm is there, and the love of this great city is there - all in abundance. My job as the Financial Secretary is to harness that energy, that goodwill, that creativity, to map out with you all the robust strategies to meet the challenges of the new century, and to achieve our common goal of maintaining Hong Kong's status as the best place in the world to do business.
I attach great importance to this forum today, because you are the leaders of our community. You have a very important role to play in realising our goals and vision. Let me extend once again our special welcome to our new guests the legislators. I have no doubt you will be as critical and challenging here as you are when you question me and my colleagues in the LegCo chamber.
I expect you all to be bold and provocative today to brainstorm on new directions for the future. I hope that through the vigorous exchange of views, we can move forward together with a common purpose.
In conclusion, I want to thank the Hong Kong Coalition of Service Industries and the University of Hong Kong for co-organising this forum with us. This is the kind of public-private partnership that really makes things happen in Hong Kong.
I wish you all a very productive discussion, and I look forward to seeing you again at the dinner tonight.
End/Monday, November 29, 1999