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Transcript of CE's remarks at question-and-answer session of Joint Business Community Luncheon 2013 (English only)

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, at the question-and-answer session of the Joint Business Community Luncheon 2013 held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre today (January 23):

Host: Thank you, Chief Executive, for a very inspiring speech. Today is always a major event, annual event, for the business communities as we come to hear the Chief Executive after his policy speech. We thank you very much for giving us a very concise but quite comprehensive description of your policies. We are particularly pleased with the message that this is a pro-growth Government, and one that places similar importance to economic growth as to improvement of livelihood for the people of Hong Kong. In fact, I think many of us have met you before your policy speech, right after you took office, and I am very pleased to see that many of the messages that we sent to you had been responded to in your policy speech. Two of the very important ones and prominent ones were the concern of the business community on air quality as well as on the shortage of land or inadequate supply of land. We are also very appreciative for you to offer not only for the business communities to take advantage of government initiatives and policies but in the formation of them, and I think it is up to us to take part in that formation of proactive government policies. We only have a very short period of time, so I don't want to make a speech. Can I ask if there is any question on the floor, could you please raise your hand. A microphone will be brought to you and before you speak could you kindly state your name and the organisation that you are affiliated with. I saw already two hands up, one in table 27 and the other one right up here in table 15. Can I start with table 27 first?

Question: Jimmy Ng from the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong. Chief Executive, we are heartened to learn from your Policy Address that you support an appropriately proactive approach to economic development. In this connection, you appreciate that in many overseas countries they provide tax incentives to selected industries. My question is: Will the Government consider giving similar tax concessions to our strategic industries in Hong Kong like technology and creative industries or the testing and certification industries? Thank you.

Chief Executive: Thank you very much for the question, Jimmy. We maintain, and we have been maintaining, a simple and straightforward taxation system, but there can be exceptions. There were exceptions in the past. What I need, before I sit down with the Financial Secretary, is a more detailed proposition as to how such tax incentive will work not just to the benefit of the industry concerned but to the whole of Hong Kong, and I look forward to receiving any detailed proposition that you might have. As I said, there is a rule and there could be exceptions.

Host: Table 15, Mr Jeffrey Lam.

Question: I'm from the General Chamber of Commerce. Chief Executive, your maiden Policy Address was a good one and we support it, and we look forward to your resolving the deep-rooted problems in Hong Kong. We are glad to see that your policy speech begins with Hong Kong's economic development, and we also understand that the Government will enhance G2G (government to government) co-operation with the Mainland and other overseas countries. We all know that G2G is key to assist local companies in going into the emerging and high-growth markets. We wonder when would you, as Hong Kong's leader, take us to those countries. We all believe that, with your participation, results will be better. Please take your time to answer as we are very flexible as we do not believe and we do not have standard lunch hours.

Chief Executive: Thank you Jeffrey. If we look at overseas economies, and not just foreign countries, I shall be doing my rounds in the Mainland starting in two weeks' time, just before the Chinese New Year. That will be a low-key visit but an important one. I would like to meet new leaders up north and I'd also like to involve my policy secretaries who have a considerable Mainland dimension in their portfolio. So that will be the first in the near future. And then I shall be in Beijing in early March and then in mid-March again, and I will be knocking on the doors of the newly appointed senior government officials who would have taken up their positions in the ministries and on the commissions by that time. I will like to introduce myself to them if we have not met before, and renew acquaintances if we have, and similarly I will like to involve as many of my policy colleagues as possible.

     Outside of the country, I have one or two major and long-haul visits in mind, yet to be announced, and I shall make public those plans as soon as they have been finalised with my host countries. It is important, it is important for government leaders - and it's not just myself, and that applies to my senior colleagues in government - to knock on doors overseas, because, after all, Hong Kong is very much part of the international community and we like to build on the very solid foundation that we have even stronger international economic ties.

Host: Thank you. There's a question at the back over there. I cannot see the table number, but there is a hand at the back.

Question: It's Kenneth Kwan of RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Hong Kong. We are very pleased to see that the Policy Address has a lot of measures or initiatives in increasing land supply and housing supply, but this shall mean that there are a lot of co-operations and co-ordinations between government departments to make this possible. And from past experience we can see that it could be time-consuming, and there are quite a lot of hurdles to go through that. My question is: Would there be any centralised agency to co-ordinate all the efforts among the different bureaus or departments in the Government?

Chief Executive: Thank you, Kenneth. I think, so far, that centralised agency is called the Chief Executive. I've been doing this for the last six months, and I must say I'm most grateful, I'm most grateful, to all my colleagues, be they policy secretaries, heads of departments, permanent secretaries or professionals working in all these departments. I think you identified a very fundamental issue. Land production, planning, the construction of buildings and infrastructure and so on cut across many bureaux and departments in government, and it is important not just for us to work shoulder to shoulder, but before that it is important for us to align our vision and to have a common set of priorities. I have attended or chaired - and sometimes chaired by the Chief Secretary (for Administration) and sometimes by the Financial Secretary - many of these meetings. In my diary, nearly every day there is at least a meeting about land production, planning or housing production - production of commercial premises as well. That shows you the kind of intensity of work that is going on in the Government.

     Coming back to this question of co-ordination amongst government departments. There are at least six government departments that work under two policy bureaux, and these are the Transport and Housing Bureau and the Development Bureau, which in turn are answerable to the Financial Secretary and the Chief Secretary for Administration, and there are other bureaux involved as well. Anyway, the six departments are Planning, Buildings, Housing, Lands, Transport and Environment. I could name them all in one breath because we work together every day, and that we have had a number of collaborative meetings in government in the past six months, and we identify that the number one priority for Hong Kong going forward in the next few years is to increase the production of land and to build up a land bank, a land reserve and to slightly, wherever possible, increase plot ratio to essentially reverse the reduction in plot ratio that has been happening in the last few years so that we will have more in a shorter time period. So that's been going on.

     Going forward, there may be, there may be the need to actually have a centralised agency. It has been proposed before, and not just in recent past, that perhaps we should have someone that holds a rank similar to a deputy secretary to co-ordinate the work of these government departments. And the proponent of this idea even has a title for this office: the Deputy Secretary for the Built Environment of Hong Kong. So that's something that we have in the back of our mind, but I have a sense that if we actually do that we would have to, sort of, face filibustering again in LegCo.

     Just a quick final word. You might want to spread this message over to the RICS head office in London that we'll need many, many more land and building professionals in Hong Kong very quickly. Thank you.

Host: Thank you very much. I think we have time for another, perhaps, two more questions. One from table 28.

Question: Eric Yim from the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. Chief Executive, we understand that land and housing is important, but we also think that intellectual property (IP) is also very important. Can you enlighten us on what the Government would do to foster Hong Kong into an international IP trading centre?

Chief Executive: Thank you, Eric. In my address just now I quoted this very important sentence in the 12th Five-Year Plan, the National 12th Five-Year Plan, and this is "to support Hong Kong to consolidate and enhance its position as an international financial, trade and transportation centre". I asked the question, as I did in my address, what does the word "enhancement" mean? When it comes to Hong Kong as an international trading centre, to my way of thinking, Hong Kong can expand the footprint as an international trading centre by incorporating trading of intellectual property rights, IPR, as well as the trading of goods and services. That's something that I have looked into for some time now. Recently, Government has approved the recommendation of an advisory committee that Government set up to look at revamping Hong Kong's patent system. That, together with all the attributes that we already have as an international business centre, our language environment, rule of law, independent judiciary and so on, so forth, are all the strengths of Hong Kong going forward to turn Hong Kong into an international trading centre for IPR. And this is also a subject that I would like to take up with the Central Authorities in Beijing as quickly as I can because, just as many economic sectors in Hong Kong, the trading of IPR or the success of it will depend to a very considerable extent on how much we could actually do work for the Mainland.

Host: Thank you, C Y. Is there any other question out there? I have time for one last. Table number 29.

Question: My name's Philip Fan from Chinese General Chamber of Commerce. As most people know, our chamber is very committed to promoting trade and economic development with the Mainland, and we are happy to note that some of our chamber's recommendations have been incorporated in your Policy Address. However, as the Mainland is rapidly developing, there is concern that in the long run Hong Kong may be marginalised. I don't know whether this is really a concern for us or not given that you are doing so much to strengthen our competitiveness, but knowing that there is already very heavy burden on you, may I ask what do you think that, as business community, what can we do on our part to enhance our overall competitiveness? Thank you very much.

Chief Executive: As far as I'm concerned, this Government is not in the business of making predictions. If we just sit back and predict as to what might happen to Hong Kong, given the competition around us, what you said earlier on might just happen to us. This Government is in the business of taking actions and making decisions to steer Hong Kong into a competitive position. I have outlined many of the actions that the Government has taken or decided to take in the near-term future.

     As to what the business community can do to help Hong Kong stay more competitive, I think there are a number of key things. First, as I said in my address, business people know how to do businesses. They know what is needed. So firstly, tell Government, tell your Government, what is needed, what should Government do for you. My neighbours, C K (Chow), Shirley (Chan), Roy (Chung) and Charles (Yeung), were sitting down for lunch, were giving me wish lists of one. C K started it and said if you could have a wish list of one, Charles, what would you ask this Government to do? And that would be a very, very good approach. If you could tell Government that this is not working but we think, if you do this for us, this will work and this will work not just to the benefit of this industry or this company but the whole of Hong Kong. That would be very useful.

     Secondly, I think businesses also need to look at the broader and overall interests of Hong Kong as a community, and not just look at the interests of a company or a certain sector. Thirdly, if I may say this, it will be very, very good for Hong Kong and businesses as a whole if we could think long term and invest long term. Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:37


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