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Budget Speech

Hong Kong's Competitiveness

23.    Some citizens have expressed concern about Hong Kong losing its edge.  They worry that weakening competitiveness and slower development might see Hong Kong lose its international status to other places and take their toll on our economy and employment.  Our competitive edge cannot be taken for granted, nor is it self-sustaining.  It is essential that we seize every opportunity to improve, and aptly respond to possible crises along the way.  On the one hand, we should understand our advantages and limitations, and consolidate our time-honoured success model.  On the other hand, we should adapt to evolving circumstances.

24.    Hong Kong's economic success over the years owes much to our efforts to grasp the opportunities presented by our country's development, to our steadfast commitment to free market principles and to our firm positioning as a world city.  In the Index of Economic Freedom released by The Heritage Foundation last month, Hong Kong ranked first for the 20th consecutive year.  For eight years in a row, we have been accredited by the World Bank with a top ranking for ease of paying taxes in its survey 'Paying Taxes - The Global Picture'.  Our total tax rate is among the lowest in advanced economies.  Hong Kong was rated as one of the world's three most competitive economies for the ninth consecutive year by the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.

25.    Such international recognition and acclaim do not come easy.  The reports highlight a wealth of intangible assets we possess, including a set of relative strengths and social values upheld by years of hard work and perseverance.  But, as our competitors are also striving for excellence, we have to work harder to stay ahead.

26.    The market economy regime encourages enterprises and individuals to translate their strengths and talents into economic benefits based on their own choices and their own efforts.  It thrives on our fine tradition of the rule of the law, a level playing field promoting fair competition, an efficient public sector, and a simple and low tax regime.

27.    The Hong Kong economy could not have attained its economic achievements through the domestic sector alone.  The key has been to integrate with the global community, forge extensive and strong commercial ties with the rest of the world, and to tap into markets outside Hong Kong.  That is why we have all along maintained a highly open market to ensure the free flows of people, goods, capital and information, with a view to strengthening our position as an international city where East meets West.

28.    All along, Hong Kong has been participating in, and has benefited from, China's reform and liberalisation.  Reunification has given us a unique competitive edge under "One Country, Two Systems".  Hong Kong has become not only the largest investor in the Mainland, but also an intermediary and a bridge for trade between China and the rest of the world.  Our nation's new round of economic reform will bring about new competition on the one hand, and much room for development on the other.

29.    Our well-established trading and logistics industry, financial services industry, tourism industry and professional services have been showcasing Hong Kong to the international community.  They have become Hong Kong's pillar industries, not on account of any mandatory government selection, but because they have been able to capitalise on their own strengths as well as Hong Kong's edge.  Decades of effort by these industries amid natural selection in the international market have contributed to Hong Kong's position as a commercial hub, a financial centre, and an international tourist destination.

30.    In the foreseeable future, there is still ample room for these industries to flourish and keep moving up the value chain in their pursuit of new areas of growth, providing support and job opportunities for our economy.  At the same time, we must nurture with patience new industries which have potential and international competitiveness.  By doing so, we are opening up more new opportunities for our future economic development.

31.    Manpower, land supply and an ageing population are the major constraints to Hong Kong's future development.  To overcome them, we must endeavour to nurture a wealth of suitable talent for the future, increase land supply to expand the scale of the economy, and plan well ahead for an ageing society.



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