Email this article
Transcript of remarks by CE at question-and-answer session of Joint Business Community Luncheon 2015 (2) (English only)

Moderator: Thank you. The next one is going to table number 17.

Question: Thank you, Stanley. Mr Chief Executive, I'm Leland Sun, representing the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, and we just want to let you know that we as a chamber think that your policy, not just practical and prudent but it's ultimately very sound and we as a chamber and all the chambers stand ready to support your various initiatives. As you just mentioned a few minutes ago, the Heritage Foundation again named Hong Kong as the freest economy for the 21st year, but however, as many of us who do business here in Hong Kong believe that costs of doing business here in Hong Kong are quite high despite many proactive measures taken by your Administration, I was wondering if you could share with us what some new initiatives or rejiggered initiatives you might have in order to bring a more competitive working environment to Hong Kong and try to curtail these escalating costs. Thank you.

Chief Executive: I presume it's our common wish that Hong Kong executives should remain highly paid compared to executives in other parts of the world, so I'm not proposing doing anything in that space. What we should look at, which is something that we have been looking at, and it's not going to happen unfortunately overnight, is to increase the supply of business space by increasing the supply of land for developers to build business space on. We have a number of projects. Central is very full, we know, and so we need new CBDs, one of which is in Kai Tak. And Kai Tak is going to be a very exciting new commercial centre with the highest and latest planning standards and technology and so on. Cost of doing business in Hong Kong has to do with in many ways the cost of renting or buying business space, so that's one area we need to work on.

     If I may, very quickly, there is an important point which I forgot to mention in my response to the previous question on ITB. Hong Kong actually has been spending quite a bit of effort and money to promote innovation and technology, both research and application. What we lack is a body at the top of our efforts to co-ordinate our efforts and to make sure that the money we spend are well spent. We now have the Science Park corporation, which manages the Science Park and the industrial estates. We have the ASTRI (Applied Science and Technology Research Institute), we have the Productivity Council and then we have all the research and teaching efforts in our universities, and we need an overarching body at the top. The reason why it would only cost $35 million a year more to our budget is that we only need the extra budget to pay for a new policy secretary, his under secretary, his political assistant, two permanent secretaries and that's it. And we are moving the two existing departments away from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau. Now, some opposition LegCo members have asked: What is your strategy? Our strategy is something that can only be delivered after we have the chief - the policy secretary - of this new ITB. Having talked to and listened to the various sectors that are related to innovation and technology, our plan is to have this strategy in about six months' time after the formation of the ITB. So it is important that we have that overarching co-ordinating effort, and this is what we are looking for.

Moderator: Time is running fast, so we are going to take the final question. It's going to table number 30.

Question: I'm Daniel Cheng, with Federation of Hong Kong Industries. Mr Leung, we are very glad to know that the Policy Address, you put a lot of focus in the economy and the constructions in Hong Kong. But on this note, there's a need to tackle the acute shortage of construction workers and technicians and improve the importation of labour schemes. This matter has been discussed for a long time with no resolution. How will the Government push through concrete, improved and streamlined measures? I know you mentioned that earlier, but perhaps you can elaborate a little bit more. Thank you.

Chief Executive: The shortage of construction workers in Hong Kong is the mother of all shortages. We are not short of demand, we are not short of funding, and we are definitely not short of skills, but we are short of workers and we need to import workers from outside of Hong Kong. We've been talking to well before the announcement in the Policy Address the key stakeholders in Hong Kong. We knew where the construction industry, employers in general and the trade unions, particularly the construction industry trade unions, stood on this issue. We've been doing a lot of talking and listening. And that is why after the announcement in the Policy Address we are not putting it the other way. The construction industry trade unions are not exactly locking horns with either the Government or the employer because we have been doing a lot of reasoning with the construction industry. I think both sides or the three sides - the employer side, the government side and the worker side - are now all pretty sort of level-headed and rational about this issue, so I am hopeful that we'll be able to move forward in that direction. The key thing is to protect the interests of the local workforce and on that basis we should import the number of construction workers that we need going forward. It is also important to bear in mind that this government, over the last two or three years, has made quite a few proposals to realise the potential of Hong Kong and also to meet the demand, to correct the shortage of housing. We have a large number of projects in the pipeline, so we need to do this and do this as soon as we can.

Ends/Monday, February 9, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:16


Print this page