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Budget Speech
Madam President,


      I move that the Appropriation Bill 2004 be read a second time.

2.         2003 was a challenging year for Hong Kong. We came through a difficult period following the outbreak of SARS. Later, things took a turn for the better as our economy staged a rapid rebound. That we have been able to turn market sentiment around within the space of a few short months demonstrates the tenacity of Hong Kong people. In the face of adversity, we remain remarkably tough and resilient. When confronted with unexpected misfortune, we display determination and solidarity, and rise to the challenge through our quick wits, adaptability to change, and our ability to seize the moment.

3.         The past year clearly demonstrated the great advantage we have in leveraging on our special relationship with the Mainland while engaging the world at large. Immediately after overcoming the outbreak of SARS, we signed the Mainland/Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), bringing unprecedented opportunities to all sectors of our economy. Our manufacturing and services industries have been given early access to the greatest potential market in the world, thus providing a further catalyst to our economic restructuring. The launch of the Individual Visit Scheme and the Renminbi (RMB) business initiative have further enhanced the free flow of people, goods and capital in both directions, speeding up our economic integration. This has fostered our economy's rapid recovery and laid a strong foundation for sustainable development.

4.         Our motherland is currently the fastest-growing major economy in the world. Despite the effects of SARS, her economy registered strong growth of 9.1 per cent last year; her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) exceeded US$1,400 billion, breaking through the US$1,000 mark on a per capita basis and hitting a historical high. As China transforms herself into a nation in which everyone may enjoy a reasonable standard of living, her economy should continue to grow steadily apace, and, looking forward, her GDP is expected to reach US$4,000 billion by 2020. Hong Kong can complement the strong economic growth of our motherland, and in the process contribute to the further opening-up and reform of our nation.

5.         We must, however, always bear it in mind that Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan international city. We have an abundant pool of talent, enterprise, experience and facilities that connect us to the rest of the world. We should be alive to opportunities on the Mainland, but at the same time, we should not lose sight of what the world at large has to offer. Only with such breadth of mind and vision can we maintain our position as the best business platform for China and the rest of the world.

6.         These advantages flow from the principle of "One Country, Two Systems". Some may say that CEPA is a big present from the Central People's Government (CPG) to Hong Kong, but as Premier Wen Jiabao remarked on his visit to Hong Kong last year, the greatest gift is actually the CPG's unwavering commitment to implement "One Country, Two Systems". If we can fully capitalise on our unique advantage under "One Country, Two Systems" and enhance our competitiveness in the globalised economy, this will hold the key to a brighter future for our people.

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2003 | Important notices
Last revision date : 10 March, 2004