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Speech by FS at APEC CEO Summit (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, on "Making cities fit for business, their people and the planet" at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Vladivostok, Russia this morning (September 8):

     Thank you very much Bill (moderator), Mayor (of Moscow), Minister Govorun, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good morning to you all.

     It is indeed my great pleasure to join you here today on Russky Island for this year's APEC CEO Summit.

     I would like to thank first of all our Russian hosts for their warm hospitality and superb organisation.

     The theme of this dialogue indeed goes beyond APEC's three pillars of trade and investment liberalisation; business facilitation, and economic and technical co-operation.
     Only with cities that are fit for business, for people and for our planet, can the global trend of urbanisation continue along a successful and sustainable path.

     Allow me to share with you three areas where Hong Kong has dedicated a great deal of attention in recent years.  These areas are corporate social responsibility (CSR), public transport, as well as greening. They seem rather unrelated on the services, but taking together, these are essential elements that make a city livable.  

     First of all, CSR. As a member of the APEC community since 1991, Hong Kong plays an important role as the premier international gateway to Mainland China as well as the Southeast Asia region.  At last count, there were some 7,000 companies from the Mainland and overseas operating in Hong Kong.  Also, in July this year, the total number of registered companies in Hong Kong topped one million.  That is about one company for every seven persons living in Hong Kong.

     Given the abundance of business activities in Hong Kong, we want to instill a caring attitude in the corporate sector to help build our city as an attractive place to live and to work. So let me cite a few examples.

     Last year, we introduced a statutory minimum wage in Hong Kong, which has appreciably increased the wages for all our low-income workers.  Earlier this year, we introduced a policy to grant five days of full-paid paternity leave to government employees.  I hope this will set an example for the private sector to follow.

     Ten years ago, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service launched the Caring Company Scheme, to encourage greater corporate social responsibility. Around 2,500 firms have been awarded the coveted Caring Company Logo for their work in the community. This is also a fillip for their brand building.

     We have recently revamped our company law to embrace corporate social responsibility by mandating major companies to report on their corporate environmental policies and performances, as well as account for key relationships with their various stakeholders. This is a major initiative to foster a stronger sense of corporate citizenship in the business community and enhance public accessibility to corporates' performance in this respect.  

     Turning to my second topic, public transport. This is vitally important for a compact city such as Hong Kong. Our development model is based on vertical living, with high-rise buildings dominating our entire cityscape.  

     To give you an idea of how compact Hong Kong is, we have 2.1 million people living on the Kowloon Peninsula, an area of about 47 square kilometres. To put this in perspective, this is smaller than half the size of Russky Island, but over 400 times the population.

     For this model to succeed, it must be well supported by different transport modes.  As far as possible, the transport network in Hong Kong is interconnected so that people can get around town quickly and efficiently.

     Our public transport system currently handles an average of 11 million trips per day. With train travel as the backbone of our public transport system, we are able to minimise traffic pollution and ease congestion on our roads.

     An effective cross-boundary transport system is also critical for doing business. The Hong Kong International Airport is the world's busiest cargo gateway and one of the world's 10 busiest passenger airports.

     To remain competitive in the longer term, airport development is firmly on our radar screen. The Airport Authority, which manages the operation of our airport, is pursuing a midfield expansion project and is also proceeding with the planning work for further development, including the third runway.

     Our seaborne trade is concentrated around our deep-water harbour.  In 2011, Hong Kong's port was the third busiest in the world connecting to some 500 destinations worldwide.

     With strong economic growth in the dynamic Pearl River Delta region, we are also expanding our cross-boundary land transport system.
     Projects include the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, or we called the XRL, and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, among others. When commissioned in 2015, the Hong Kong leg of the XRL will plug into the Mainland's 16,000 kilometre high-speed rail network. It will take 48 minutes for a passenger, the businessmen, the commuters and the tourists  travelling from Hong Kong to Guangzhou on the high speed rail, which is less than half the time required currently on our 'express' train. As to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, it is a 29 kilometre road connecting the three cities. This will help open up the entire western part of Guangdong Province with a population of over 25 million people, and of course, that will provide plenty of business opportunities.
     Beyond transport, we are developing new business hubs, away from the traditional CBD in Central on Hong Kong Island.
     This includes identifying the area of Kowloon East, which includes our old Kai Tak airport, as an effective alternative CBD. The area is undergoing extensive development for commercial, residential, leisure and tourism facilities.  Environmental features include extensive greening areas, a district cooling system, environmentally-conscious designs and links to the city-wide public transport network.

     One increasingly important aspect in city planning indeed is greening, the third area that I would like to mention.
     Hong Kong's rugged open green spaces are often considered to be our cityˇ¦s best kept secret. Currently, about 15 per cent of Hong Kong's total landmass is used for residential, commercial, industrial as well as agricultural purposes. Actually, very little is being used now for the last two purposes. That leaves plenty of room for open green space, including designated country parks and special protected areas which cover more than 40 per cent of Hong Kong.

     In particular, some 90 per cent of Hong Kong's population is now living within 3 km from one of our country parks.  Within 30 minutes of travel time from our city centre, one can even reach the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China and immerse oneself in the time corridor of geo-history.  Our visitors are often surprised to learn that Hong Kong is home to more species of butterfly than Britain!
     We are introducing more green elements to the city centre under our Greening Master Plan to make the city living even more enjoyable and healthy.  A total of 20 million trees were planted in the last 10 years, resulting in significant improving in greening of Hong Kong.
     Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity for me to share with you some of Hong Kong's development experiences. I look forward to welcoming you to Hong Kong sometime soon.

     Thank you.

Ends/Saturday, September 8, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:14


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