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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (8)

Tourism Economy

53. Tourism is important to our economy and currently employs a workforce of over 170,000.  In face of the current economic difficulties and competition from other regions, we should take proactive action to facilitate the continuous development of tourism.  This will stimulate growth and create employment in our service industries including retail, catering and hotel industries.

Individual Visit Scheme

54. From the launch of the Individual Visit Scheme in July 2003 up till the end of last year, over 35 million Mainlanders had visited Hong Kong under the scheme, serving as an important stimulus for our various consumer industries.  Last December, the Central Government announced additional measures to further facilitate  Mainland residents to visit Hong Kong under the scheme, covering over 8.6 million residents of Shenzhen.  As a next step, we will, in collaboration with the Guangdong and Macao governments, seek to extend the coverage of the pilot liberalisation measures from Shenzhen to the rest of Guangdong Province.

Promotion Strategies

55. We have worked with the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) to adjust promotion strategies.  We will develop new tourism products and step up promotion in high-growth source markets.  These include Japanese seniors, the young Taiwanese and Indian families.  The governments of Hong Kong and Japan have designated 2009 as "Hong Kong-Japan Tourism Exchange Year" to promote Hong Kong's diversified tourism products to Japan and arouse Japanese visitor interest in Hong Kong.  The Government has also decided to finance the construction of the Kai Tak cruise terminal.  Work is expected to commence this year.  The project is expected to create over 3,000 jobs in the next few years.  We are actively discussing with The Walt Disney Company the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland and any capital realignment of the joint-venture company involved.  We hope that agreement will soon be reached on a proposal that will both make Hong Kong Disneyland more attractive as well as serve the overall interests of Hong Kong.

Wine and Food

56. The market has responded favourably to my announcement of the exemption of wine duties last year.  Wine trading, distribution and other related businesses have all shown notable growth.  In the 10 months ending last December, the total value of imported wine reached $2.6 billion, an increase of 82 per cent over the same period in 2007.  To make the most of this development as well as the release of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macao, we will step up the promotion of Hong Kong as an Asian wine and gourmet centre through the "World of Food and Wine" Festival, to be organised jointly by the HKTB and famous wine producers in this October.  We have signed co-operation agreements with a number of winegrowing trading partners.  These agreements cover investment promotion, trade shows and manpower training.  They will reinforce Hong Kong's status as a regional hub for wine distribution and trading.  We will actively encourage wine traders intending to access the Asian market to participate in wine fairs in Hong Kong and to set up business here.

Conventions and Exhibitions

57. To upgrade the software and the hardware for developing these industries, I chair a cross-sector steering committee to co-ordinate measures by various departments.  Such measures include facilitating immigration clearance for frequent business travellers, and enhancing co-ordination between government departments, overseas offices and non-government organisations.  In addition, the HKTB set up the dedicated MEHK (Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong) Office last November for overseas promotion campaigns and one-stop support services.  The atrium link extension of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) will be completed in the first half of this year.  This will increase the HKCEC's dedicated exhibition space by 40 per cent.  

New Economic Initiatives

58. Faced with the global financial crisis, governments around the world are reviewing their strategies for economic development.  There have also been calls for the Government to promote diversification of our economy.  During an economic downturn, as well as addressing immediate needs, it is vital that we are far-sighted in encouraging high value-added economic activities that open up new sectors for sustainable economic growth.  I will elaborate on our way forward in promoting technology-based, creative and green economies.

Technology-based Economy

59. Promoting the use of technology is a long-term task.  We will continue on the path towards a high value-added and knowledge-based economy.  We will promote the development of new technologies to enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong through the provision of infrastructure, manpower training, co-operation with the Mainland and other economies and funding schemes.

60. Last year, the SAR Government and the Shenzhen Municipal Government and DuPont, a US enterprise, started working together to set up DuPont's Solar Energy Thin Film Photovoltaic Research and Industrial Platform in the Hong Kong Science Park and its manufacturing facilities in Shenzhen.  This is the first major technology project under the framework of the "Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation Circle".  It has attracted other solar energy photovoltaic research institutes to apply for admission to the Science Park.  DuPont has also started to collaborate with the Nano and Advanced Materials Institute, one of our five research and development centres, in conducting further research on photovoltaic solar energy technology.

61. We will continue to work with Shenzhen to attract more overseas enterprises with this modality to conduct scientific research in Hong Kong.  To further co-operation in various areas under the framework of the "Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation Circle", the two governments will formulate an action plan for the next three years on top of the annual joint funding for co-operative research projects of the two places.  In co-operation with the Guangdong Provincial Government, the SAR Government will continue to explore other areas of technological development to enhance the overall research capacity of the PRD region and facilitate the upgrading and restructuring of Hong Kong enterprises in the region.

Hong Kong Science Park

62. The Hong Kong Science Park promotes innovation and technology by providing advanced laboratories and research and development facilities in a quality environment.  By assisting technology start-ups through incubation programmes, it creates conditions for business development, which in turn furnishes new business and job opportunities.  Phases 1 and 2 of the Science Park have been commissioned.  More than 250 local and overseas research institutes have set up their offices in the Science Park, providing a total of over 6 000 technology-related jobs.  With annual turnover of $60 billion to $70 billion, these institutes have made significant contributions to enhancing the competitiveness of our industries and broadening the base of our economy.

63. We have reserved two purpose-built laboratory buildings in Science Park Phase 2 to support biotechnology research.  The buildings will be commissioned in April this year.  Biotechnology has potential for wide applications.  Our universities are well-positioned to develop this technology.  A number of world renowned biotechnology companies have been conducting technological research in Hong Kong, building up a sound foundation for development.  In addition to the key development areas of electronics, precision engineering and information technology, biotechnology will become a new cluster in the Science Park.

64. To continue to support development of Hong Kong's research capacity effectively in response to economic restructuring and enterprises' demand for scientific research facilities, and to foster the strategic development of Guangdong/Hong Kong co-operation, the Science Park is exploring the feasibility of and the development plans for Phase 3 of the Park.  We will study Science Park's report and will decide on appropriate next steps.

Industrial Estates

65. Economic restructuring and industrial transformation have brought challenges and opportunities to Hong Kong.  The Government has always been an active facilitator, providing a level playing field and a suitable environment for the industrial sector to play to its strengths.  We have given appropriate support to such areas as research, product development and manpower training.  This enables the industrial sector to make the best use of new high technology to further develop high value-added industries.

66. Drawing on the successful experience of our three industrial estates in supporting the development of special industries, we are studying ways to enhance the functions of the industrial estates.  We are also reviewing the existing mix of industries within these estates and exploring future market opportunities, including the introduction of new industries, to ensure that the development of our industrial estates keeps pace with the times and brings the best economic benefit to Hong Kong.  It is expected that the study will be completed in the third quarter.  We will consider the potential and feasibility of developing a fourth estate.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 11:53


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