2009-10 Policy Address by Chief Executive (15)

F. Conclusion

119. Mr President, almost half way through my tenure as the third-term Chief Executive, I am glad to report that most of the infrastructure projects and major policies that I announced in 2007 are well on schedule.  The construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link will start by the end of this year. Design of the WKCD has also started. In addition, advance works for the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal are in progress.  Construction of the MTR West Island Line commenced last July and is due for commissioning in 2014.

120. As regards major policies, small class teaching is being rolled out as scheduled. This year, 65% of public sector primary schools are implementing small class teaching starting from Primary One.  The Minimum Wage Bill was introduced into this Council in July this year.  We have also made good progress with environmental protection.  Hong Kong and Guangdong now share the common goal of developing the Greater PRD region into a green and quality living area.  On heritage conservation, the community has responded positively to our various initiatives, and work on revitalising the first batch of six historic buildings is under way.  The consultation exercise on healthcare financing, which has been deferred because of the threat of human swine influenza, will start soon.  In the past year, we have resolved major policy, legal and technical issues concerning the Competition Bill and hope to introduce it into this Council within the current legislative session.

Critical Assessment

121. After reunification, Hong Kong experienced the Asian financial crisis and the ensuing recession.  When the first glimmer of recovery was visible, we were hit hard by the SARS outbreak.  The subsequent economic recovery brought us several prosperous years but inflation set in before long.  As the Government was preparing to fight inflation, the global financial tsunami plunged the world into recession.  I deeply share the frustrations endured by our people over the past decade. Many are earning lower wages as a result of the economic downturn.  Similarly, civil servants have had their pay cut to ride out the difficulties with the rest of the community.

122. In dealing with the financial tsunami, I understand more than ever that effective governance requires critical assessment of the situation, prompt response to issues, and taking the public pulse. During times of change, the Government has to maintain close contact with various sectors to review public policies in a timely manner.  Our policies should be stable and predictable, yet flexible enough to cope with a rapidly changing situation. After setting policy objectives and principles, we need to reach out to the community and listen to their views before refining the implementation details.

Fundamental Solution

123. As a city economy, Hong Kong must strive for economic growth and wealth creation to address the employment and poverty issues.  If we were to maintain welfare-based relief measures on a long-term basis, we would have to overhaul our tax system and increase tax rates.  I believe the public would not agree with this approach.  The fundamental solution lies in our common efforts in promoting the development of our industries.

124. My proposal to develop the six industries has won wide support from the community.  This reflects our rethinking in response to the financial tsunami, and the realisation that our economy cannot rely solely on its financial sector but needs to diversify.

The Age of Co-operation

125. For the six industries to flourish, the Government cannot take on the task alone.  We must engage the public and the industries.  We should keep our policy discussions highly transparent.  We also need to dispel the misconception that collaboration between the Government and the business sector is cronyism in disguise.  With the Government, the business sector and the public at large co-operating with one another wholeheartedly, the six industries stand a better chance of success.

Our Competitive Edge

126. Economic integration with the PRD region is the direction for Hong Kong.  Some worry that in this process, Hong Kong will lose its uniqueness.  Some are concerned that Hong Kong may be marginalised with the rapid rise of Mainland cities and the ensuing competition.  To dispel such worries, we must recognise Hong Kong's unique competitive edges.  We have the rule of law, the free flow of information and good international networks.  "One Country, Two Systems" allows us to give full play to these strengths.  We also have a respected brand in the name of "Hong Kong".  It stands for professional standards, creative and innovative enterprises, and responsiveness to change. Such "soft powers" are Hong Kong's intangible assets and are vital for a knowledge-based economy.  With these, we fear no competition.

Breaking New Ground Together

127. Hong Kong is a city of immigrants. Many of the older generation came here to start a new life, then emigrated in the 1980s and eventually returned after Hong Kong's reunification in search of a good place to live and work.  We love this city not just because we can make a living here, but because we enjoy the lifestyle.  People from around the world, be they from the Mainland or other countries, are all welcome to work, live and pursue a career here.  Hong Kong is a free, pluralistic, advanced and civilised society -- a unique cosmopolitan city.

128. For all of us who have made Hong Kong our home, we need to look to the future from a broader perspective.  In the next decade, integration between Hong Kong and the PRD will speed up and increase in breadth and depth, covering economic, cultural and social areas.  We are entering a new era, but we need not worry about the new competitive landscape.  With an open mind, pioneering spirit, and full preparation, we can break new ground together.

Ends/Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:37