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Budget Speech


Developing the Economy and Increasing Employment

14.    As the world's economic balance shifts to Asia, Hong Kong should ride the wave of the new order by capitalising on our unique advantages and exploring new business opportunities to take Hong Kong's economy to new heights.

15.    During the Budget consultation, many people mentioned the role of the Government in the development of a market economy, and the general consensus was that the free and open mode of economic development which had been the key to Hong Kong's success should be maintained.  We maintain a simple and low tax regime while prudently controlling government expenditure to leave most of the wealth to the market and the public.  Entrepreneurs, investors and members of the public are free to make their own decisions on business, investment and employment issues, making it possible to use the limited resources more effectively.

16.    This does not mean that the Government is merely reactive.  In fact, the Government has been playing a pivotal role in the market economy, especially in times of market failure when it takes steps to restore the market balance to ensure that the community can share the fruits of economic growth.  The Government acts as provider of public service, mediator in the allocation of public resources as well as negotiator in discussions with other governments.  As I see it, government participation and market operation are complementary concepts.  What matters is how to make the two work together, and how to strike a balance between social costs and benefits.

17.    The current-term Government will continue to count on market forces and act in a rational and pragmatic manner in collaborating with the market to grasp development opportunities and create a better business environment to foster robust economic growth underpinned by our established strengths and foundations.  The ultimate objective of economic policies is not about chasing after statistics.  It is about expanding the scale of Hong Kong's economy, promoting the holistic development of our society and creating more business and job opportunities so that our people can realise their aspirations and improve their living standards.  At the same time, the Government will distribute social resources effectively through appropriate policies and measures so that the needy can be provided with appropriate relief and become self-reliant.

18.    To promote future economic development, we must work on two areas.  First, we must foster our economic integration with the Mainland to take advantage of its market development.  We know the huge Mainland market well.  The Government will make good use of all Government-to-Government (G2G) platforms to help Hong Kong enterprises expand their Mainland business, channel overseas capital to the Mainland market, and support Mainland enterprises in "going global".  More importantly, we must at the same time preserve Hong Kong's characteristics as an international city. We must recognise our biggest advantages - a sound legal system, a level-playing field and an excellent business environment. We treasure our core values of individual freedoms, the rule of law and a clean government, which align us with the international system.  We shall support our enterprises by strengthening opportunities in traditional markets, exploring new areas of growth and opening up more new markets.

19.    The Economic Development Commission established by the Chief Executive will provide a new platform for the Government to work with the market in the promotion of economic development.  It will develop ideas, advise on strategies and policies, examine the structure of different industries, and explore measures for their development.

20.    Second, we must expand and strengthen our pillar industries to maintain our competitiveness.  We must also support the development of new industries, build a more diversified and solid economic base, and provide more career choices for our younger generation to realise their potential.

21.    Traditional pillar industries have been the major driving forces behind Hong Kong's economic development.  They have clear advantages internationally and are highly competitive.  Currently, the four pillar industries - trading and logistics, tourism, financial services and business and professional services employ 1.7 million people, or 48 per cent of the total labour force.  These pillar industries contribute to 59 per cent of our GDP.  With a large economic base, they serve as a powerful driver for related sectors and the job market as well.  I shall now introduce measures to further promote these industries.



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