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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (13)

Concluding Remarks

157. Mr President, since Hong Kong's return to the Motherland, Hong Kong has experienced several periods of ups and downs, including two shattering financial crises.  Thanks to the sound institutional framework and stable economic foundations built up by generations of Hong Kong people over decades, we were able to ride out the storm.  It was not by chance that we were immune from the big cuts in public expenditure that the US and most European countries have been forced to make because of their severe fiscal deficits.

158. By developing the economy and creating wealth, we can provide opportunities for everyone to realise his aspirations and live a better life.  That is why the Government has always attached importance to economic development.  Hong Kong is now a fairly mature economy.  Compared with the rapid growth in the 1970s and 1980s, we are unavoidably slowing down.  Nevertheless, in the face of keen global competition, we must still endeavour to look for new growth areas.  Otherwise, we can only mark time rather than stride ahead, and will lag behind others.

159. When I was young, our living environment was inferior to that of today, and many families lived in squatter areas or resettlement areas.  They might not even have gas, electricity or water supply at home.  Family members used to sleep on make-shift plain planks or canvas beds.  Every morning, they woke up, stretched their backs and went to school or work.  Today, our living environment has improved considerably.  We should not, of course, apply the standard in the past to judge the quality of life today.

160. Similarly, civil society has evolved rapidly and brought with it changes in our social values.  Hong Kong people, especially our younger generation, aspire to live in a society which values equality and justice for all, with dignity and respect for each individual, and care for the disadvantaged.  I am all for this.  An ideal society hinges on having the right conditions and resolving the core question of where to get the resources required.  A politician once said, "Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground."  This comes as a timely reminder for today's Hong Kong.  Put simply: we must take the pragmatic way.

161. Wealth redistribution seems to be a quick fix to improve the livelihood of the grass roots.  But the lesson in Europe in recent years tells us that welfarism is not sustainable.  It has long been my steadfast belief that we can provide everyone opportunities to change his life through developing the economy, creating quality employment opportunities, investing vigorously in education and training to increase social mobility.  I trust that this is also a common value for all of us.

162. In almost every movie and TV drama series featuring Hong Kong, you are likely to come across these scenes: queues of vehicles along roads and crowds of pedestrians jostling against each other amid the hustle and bustle of the city.  You can feel a unique buzz.  Call it hectic or even chaotic, in Hong Kong everyone is free to live his own way and make his own choice.  While our seven million people may have seven million different lifestyles, seemingly unconnected to each other, we share the same vision and values that unite us and drive us to forge ahead.  Hong Kong people of different generations and backgrounds are all positive, optimistic and resilient.  We strive for continued improvement and never yield to fate.  I believe we shall build a better and brighter future together.

163. Thank you, Mr President.

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:48


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