Formula E to rev up tourism

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So

To reinforce Hong Kong’s position as a preferred travel destination, Hong Kong plays host to a fascinating array of exciting events ranging from world-class sports events to colourful festivals. The Government is keen to add more new elements to our year-round event calendar, hence we fully support the introduction of the FIA Formula E Championship to Hong Kong.

 

The successful hosting of this new exciting and large-scale event at the Central Harbourfront will benefit Hong Kong in various ways. Not only will this world-class novel car race become yet another signature event in Hong Kong, it will showcase our splendid skyline and harbour view to the world, and hence enrich the tourism appeal of Hong Kong and reinforce our position as the events capital of Asia.

 

We are confident that car racing enthusiasts, who incidentally are typically high-spending visitors, will come to Hong Kong specifically for this race. A case in point here is that Formula E Holdings has reserved hundreds of hotel rooms for its race experts during the event period, which will certainly give an impetus to our tourism development.

 

Over the past few months, the Tourism Commission has also been facilitating the organiser to explore with the tourism and retail sectors on ways to attract overseas spectators to the Hong Kong ePrix. We are delighted to learn that there will be tourist packages, such as combo tickets for visitors’ enjoyment at both the car race and our theme parks, and that the organiser is continuing its effort on this front.

 

The Government and a lot of friends here have been making tremendous efforts to facilitate the introduction of the FIA Formula E Championship to Hong Kong. With our concerted effort, I am confident that the race will be a highlight of Hong Kong’s events calendar and a talking point in the region.

 

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So gave these remarks at the FIA Formula E Hong Kong ePrix press conference.

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HK, home to creativity

Financial Secretary John Tsang

I must, first of all, tell you that I am both a proud Lasallian and a graduate of Harvard University. So it should not surprise you that I am delighted to take part today in this very special award ceremony organised by the Harvard Club of Hong Kong, at my alma mater in Kowloon.

 

Let me start by thanking the club for organising this award scheme to recognise the academic and personal excellence of our secondary school students. The scheme – which has been running for a decade now – is worthy of our accolades because it encourages our young people to strive for excellence. A noble cause. I understand that last year, some 150 schools and 460 students participated in the scheme.

 

Last year, the scheme scaled up in a big way, with scholarships given to four top students to join summer school at Harvard for seven weeks. Members of the Harvard Club also designed an innovative mentorship programme, pairing scholarship finalists with Harvard alumni, and providing these final-year secondary school students with this support and advice. These are truly meaningful developments.

 

I shall be handing out the Scholarship Awards to the four winners who will have the opportunity of going to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a taste of the life at Harvard. You have demonstrated your merit, and my heartfelt congratulations go to all of you. I am sure your experience at that great hall of learning in Cambridge will not only enrich your life, but also incentivise you to reach for even greater heights. It could turn out to be a game changer for you all.

 

This year’s book prize is an excellent book on creativity by Dr Shelley Carson, entitled “Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity and Innovation in Your Life”, and that explains in a step-by-step manner how everyone can work to enhance their creative potential.

 

Creativity unleashed

And that reminds me of Hong Kong somehow. Hong Kong is no stranger to creativity and innovation. Hong Kong people have a proven capability to adapt to changes and thrive on challenges. This city, our home, is itself an amazing testament to creativity unleashed. Imagination made concrete. And challenges overcome.

 

Over the past few decades, Hong Kong has reinvented itself time and time again. Dramatically on occasions. We have come a long way from a sleepy fishing village, to a manufacturing centre, then to become a global financial centre, a glittering world city that never ceases to amaze and inspire.

 

George Bernard Shaw could have been talking about Hong Kong when he said, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”

 

I see in front of me eager young faces poised for the future. I cannot predict the future. But having been ageing for some decades, I can probably give a bit of advice on how we can welcome the future. So, let me close with a few takeaways.

 

Be constant learners. Be self-directed. Never confine learning to classrooms. Make the world your classroom. And think global.

 

When you come to school, pack your bag with your passion, your determination, your dreams. There is no limit to the heights your potential can reach. Don’t be afraid to explore and to experiment. Don’t be afraid to fail.

 

Most importantly, don’t forget to take time out to chill. Enjoy the journey, and smell the roses along the way.

 

I am confident that you will all contribute in no time to make this city of ours, our society as well as the world a better place to live.

 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the 2016 Harvard Book Prize & Scholarship Award Ceremony.

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Charitable network building welcomed

Financial Secretary John Tsang

This gathering today is refreshingly different to the many investment conferences that we host throughout the year. Not only does it focus on maximising the financial returns of investors, like many other agencies, it also seeks to maximise the social benefit to the community of the investments made by the philanthropic foundations or the investors that you represent.

 

Investment is not a zero-sum game. Well-considered investments can always bring financial returns to individual investors, and at the same time, increase the wealth of the entire society. In fact, I believe it is the investments that seek to create shared value as well as social and environmental capital that bring the best returns.

 

Of course, it is an idea that is easy to express but requires careful thought and tremendous effort when put into practice. The key is to create an enabling environment for social investing, an environment that allows individuals, businesses and investors to make free and informed choices, an environment that is conducive to innovation and adaptation of new ideas, and an environment that facilitates effective responses to the constant shifts in economic and social conditions.

 

I would like to spend the next few minutes to outline for you three key aspects of Government’s role that I believe are essential in building this enabling environment, and how Hong Kong fares on these fronts. I shall describe the three aspects as the “necessary negative”, the “predictably positive”, and, last but not least, the “surprisingly innovative”.

 

Necessary negative

First is the “necessary negative” activity of Government, in the form of regulation and enforcement. It is one of Government’s fundamental duties to instil well-defined laws and a robust market mechanism that can be effectively enforced in order to offer certainty and security for all businesses and investments, and help maintain a level playing field that forms the foundation of a favourable business environment.

 

For Hong Kong, the rule of law has always been an indispensable building block of our sustained success. The sound and rigorous legal system of Hong Kong protects all entities and their investment. And laws in Hong Kong are constantly under review to ensure that they serve their intended purposes amid changing circumstances.

 

The effectively upheld laws and regulations in Hong Kong, together with our free and open market that is gauged at the international level of best practice, help to give confidence to investors and build a climate of trust in which it can make sense for them to invest to bring return over the longer term.

 

Predictably positive

But perhaps more important than the role as a regulator, the Government must also actively and consistently invest in social and economic goods, such as education, transport, healthcare, sanitation and housing. This is what I call the “predictably positive” role of Government. This is the role of Government that provides the institutional arrangements whereby a society can ensure the “decent provision for the poor”, which, in the words of Samuel Johnson, the famous 18th century English writer, was the true test of civilisation, and that role includes also the advancement of education that enriches the whole of society, and the creation of infrastructure that benefits everyone.

 

In my Budget delivered in February this year, I have allocated over HK$72 billion for social welfare, HK$77 billion for healthcare, HK$84 billion for education and HK$85 billion for infrastructure, accounting for over 65% of planned public expenditure for the current financial year. Over the past decade, provision for social welfare has more than doubled in real terms while education spending has risen by 67% and healthcare by 90%.

 

Those figures are impressive in today’s fiscal environment, but they raise a pertinent question, and that is “If Government is doing so much on social investment, what need is there for other investors?” Thinking about that question leads nicely into the third aspect that I want to touch on, that of the “surprisingly innovative”.

 

Inciting innovation

Societies and economies, like young children, don’t stand still. Very often, actions taken to address particular needs at one time lead to the emergence of different needs that cannot be met simply by scaling up old measures. Investment in education, for example, creates new generations with different expectations and demands on society. Investment in healthcare, on the other hand, gives people longer, healthier lives, but creates new demands on extended care and services.

 

Even where needs and services remain constant over time, maintaining the quality and effectiveness of service demands requires attentive and creative management. There will always be demand for governments to encourage and to make use of entrepreneurs and ventures that can bring insight and innovation to social services and investments.

 

The ways in which governments can do this are many and varied.

 

Regulatory compliance

Many people moan about regulation; too few think about it as having effect not just to prevent harms, but also to spur innovation. Here in Hong Kong, the Companies Ordinance has in recent years been amended to require annual directors’ reports to include discussion of environmental policies and performance, legal compliance and relations with employees, customers and suppliers.

 

The Securities & Futures Commission is introducing requirements this year for listed companies to comply with guidelines on environmental, social and governance reporting, or to explain why there has been deviation. These new requirements do not just ensure minimum standards are met. They enable investors to engage in constructive discourse with businesses and make more informed choices about their investments, they stimulate companies to think about how they can create better social and environmental impact for the community in the course of their business, and they provide an environment in which the search to achieve competitive advantage for businesses through the creation of shared value can be sustained.

 

Large though the scale of government investments is in relation to any individual venture philanthropy or social investor, the scale of private sector investment and private sector employment actually dwarfs Government. Enlisting the private sector’s assistance and tapping the latter’s expertise in searching for new ways of meeting emerging social needs is crucial to societies successfully meeting the huge changes being brought about by older populations.

 

Stimulating new services

Another way to incite innovation is to stimulate new businesses and services to emerge. For many years, Hong Kong has developed many social programmes not by direct provision through public agencies but by engaging not-for-profit organisations or private companies in delivering the services. Traditionally, funding was provided through subventions or contract arrangements, but since the 1990s we have given NGOs greater room to determine how their subventions are used, and we have set up funding programmes to encourage the development of social enterprises that are able to earn and retain income to help scale up and sustain their activities.

 

More recently, in 2013, the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Fund was set up with the intention of further improving the ecosystem to facilitate creation and growth of social ventures in Hong Kong. I also see great opportunity for cross-fertilisation between social entrepreneurs and the growing body of talent coming up through the universities and the infrastructure and funding schemes that we have been establishing to drive innovation and investment in science and technology.

 

Having said that, I would caution that while providing public funds to help stimulate innovation is often necessary, limits must be recognised. Easy access to public funds can discourage more disciplined private sector investment. Also, by directing attention towards how to apply for public funds, it can take attention away from what is most important, which is attention to the voice of those in need, in the community. We tend to assume that we know what the poor and needy in the community really need, and we tend to treat them as objects for charity and intervention, rather than who they are.

 

Substantive choice

One of the most interesting areas for innovation in public service is for governments to find ways to give dignity to individuals by giving them a voice in the design of services and giving them the ability to exercise substantive choice. This is an area of innovation that can bring benefit to the social investment market as well.

 

Here in Hong Kong, we are encouraging government agencies to apply the techniques of user-centred design to listen to and engage with the intended beneficiaries of services, to draw on their insights to inform and shape the design and delivery of programmes that are intended for them. We are also developing the use of tools that give people more effective choice – vouchers to purchase services, minimum wage legislation, low-income family allowance, etc – things that enable individuals and families to exercise agency for themselves rather than simply to receive services that have been procured on their behalf by others.

 

By giving people means to exercise choice over how expenditure is made, such measures may also create revenue streams that give incentive for investment in ventures that better meet their diverse needs, whether by venture philanthropists or by business investors.

 

Set against government investments that measure in billions are all the funds under management. In Hong Kong, these add up to huge sums, all driving patterns of consumption of resources and impacts on our environment and on our societies. The more we can develop our discourse to create productive collaboration between government initiatives and private innovation in bringing the assessment of environment and social impacts into the heart of all investment decisions, the better the prospects for people, for our cities and for our planet.

 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network Conference 2016.

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Belt-Road to boost world economy

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So

Our long-standing links with the UK continue to go from strength to strength. On the business front, our bilateral trade in 2015 amounted to slightly over GBP9 billion. As at end-2014, direct investment from the UK in Hong Kong amounted to just under GBP12 billion, whereas in the opposite direction, the total stock of Hong Kong’s direct investment in the UK amounted to over GBP21 billion. And of the Mainland and overseas companies setting up regional headquarters, regional offices and local offices in Hong Kong, more than 600 are from the UK.

 

Our people-to-people links are also deep and meaningful. According to the British Council, around 24,000 Hong Kong students are studying in the UK. We are also very pleased at the development of three new international schools in Hong Kong by some of the best educational institutions in the UK: Harrow School, Shrewsbury School and Malvern College.

 

I am confident our links will only get stronger in the coming years, thanks to the ambitious and visionary initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, commonly known as the Belt & Road Initiative, that was spearheaded by President Xi of China in 2013.

 

This grand and far-reaching initiative aims to expand trans-continental connectivity, and promote economic, political and cultural co-operation from Asia through Africa and on to Europe. I believe it will emerge as a driving force of the world economy in this 21st century.

 

Expanding trade 

Through the Belt & Road Initiative, we expect to see soaring investments in infrastructural facilities, deepening financial integration, expanding trade and the building of people-to-people bonds on a global scale. The Belt & Road Initiative covers various aspects and proposes co-operation in many sectors, but fundamentally the initiative is about making connections. And I am proud to say that facilitating connections is also what Hong Kong is good at. This is how we see Hong Kong will contribute to, and benefit from, the Belt & Road blueprint.

 

Hong Kong may play this facilitator role perfectly, thanks to the unique advantages presented by our “one country, two systems” arrangement. When you are in Hong Kong, you are in China – but a Special Administrative Region of China that provides the combined advantages of “one country” and “two systems”. Hong Kong is an international gateway to Mainland China, offering unique physical and intangible connectivity to the Mainland with privileged trade and social access. On the other hand, Hong Kong has a well-established system that connects us to the international community in terms of our legal system, language, trade practices as well as lifestyle which international traders are familiar with.

 

Traders in all sectors, and from all jurisdictions, can trade freely in Hong Kong. And all people, businesses and organisations, regardless of their nationality, are treated exactly the same. Every business in Hong Kong can enjoy the same privileges and benefits provided by our international agreements.

 

Consider, for example, the Mainland & Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, Hong Kong’s free trade agreement with the Mainland of China. CEPA provides preferential treatment to Hong Kong service providers, regardless of nationality, as well as tariff-free treatment for products that have been conferred the Hong Kong origin. Working with Hong Kong, the UK companies can gain the same access to the markets of the Mainland. It’s your ticket to the massive Chinese consumer market and its fast-rising middle class.

 

“One country, two systems” has made Hong Kong the super-connector, bringing together the rest of China and the rest of the world, and that, of course, includes economies along the Belt & Road. This also makes us a magnet for businesses – at last count, about 8,000 international companies have commercial presence in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has always been a preferred venue for hosting regional headquarters or trading offices for multinational companies to manage their businesses in the Asia-Pacific. And I hereby invite more British companies to come to Hong Kong and make full use of our advantages in tapping the massive Belt & Road markets.

 

Reliable logistics

Logistics is another key area that has been driving Hong Kong’s development as an international business centre. The Belt & Road will catalyse the movement of people and goods, boosting demand for reliable logistics services. In this, Hong Kong is also well served. Indeed, Hong Kong boasts the world’s fourth busiest container port, providing some 350 services a week to more than 500 destinations worldwide. Our 700 shipping-related companies offer a wide range of services, from ship management, broking and chartering to finance, marine insurance, legal, arbitration and many other support services. Our airport has been the busiest cargo airport in the world for more than 15 years. From Hong Kong, you can reach all major Asian economies within four hours’ flight time. Half the world’s population is just five hours away. The Maritime Silk Road will create fresh demand for shipping services. Logistics companies in the UK will find it advantageous to establish a presence in Hong Kong, using our maritime services to tap into the markets of the Belt & Road.

 

Among the Belt & Road’s main goals is promoting big-ticket infrastructural development, from highways and railways to maritime and aviation transport, as well as telecommunications and energy projects. Hong Kong certainly will have a lot to offer and the expertise to share when it comes to international co-operation on infrastructural projects envisaged under the Belt & Road. Why? Because we have a deep pool of talented professionals, from engineers and surveyors to architects, designers and planners, not to mention other professionals specialised in financing, insurance, arbitration, risk management and project consulting. All of them are experienced and eager to partner with overseas businesses, including British companies, to take part in the development, management and operation of infrastructural projects under the Belt & Road Initiative.

 

One example of such collaboration is our subway system, the Mass Transit Railway. Aside from carrying 5 million passengers every weekday in our domestic lines, MTR is also managing many mass transit systems in the Mainland of China, Asia and Europe. I am particularly gratified to note that MTR is operating the London Overground as a joint venture partner, and will be responsible for the operation of Crossrail upon commissioning. I am glad that our expertise in railway operation is able to contribute to the transport system in the UK.

 

Financial centre 

Other than professional services, financial services will of course be another important area for co-operation under the Belt & Road. Hong Kong is China’s international financial centre and we are also one of the leading financial centres in the world. We have the experience, the expertise and the connections to serve as the fund-raising and financial management hub for the Belt & Road. We run the world’s eighth largest stock market in terms of market capitalisation, and in 2015 we ranked first, globally, in terms of equity funds raised through initial public offerings.

 

Hong Kong has what you need in a strategic partner for the 21st century. We welcome investment and talent from the UK. In Hong Kong, you can take advantage of our low taxes, our world-class business environment and our reassuring legal system, as well as our knowledge in tapping the massive Asian markets.

 

The Belt & Road will be built on collaborations – on deepening the bonds between nations, economies and cultures. In the rewarding future, it can offer much to the companies, and the people, of Hong Kong and the UK.

 

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So gave these remarks at a breakfast roundtable at Chatham House in London.

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Gov’t prioritises education: FS

Financial Secretary John Tsang

Education is certainly the most powerful equaliser that drives our society forward, sustaining the growth of each and every modern economy. Education is more than just a critical investment in human capital, it is also the most rewarding investment in humanity. Collectively, as well as individually.

 

I am glad to learn that the Yidan Prize Foundation will be presenting annual awards starting from 2017 to recognise the achievements as well as to support the work of commendable educators from around the world.

 

In Hong Kong, education has always been the top policy priority of the Government. In the current fiscal year, I have allocated some $75 billion for education spending, more than one-fifth of our total recurrent expenditure. Over the past decade, government spending on education has increased by 70%.

 

Through the provision of quality and comprehensive education to our younger generations, we are indeed nurturing talents that would help create exciting opportunities and boundless possibilities for the future of our city. For the people of Hong Kong.

 

Today marks a milestone for the Yidan Prize Foundation, as well as international education research and development. And I am pleased to add that the Foundation’s heart and soul lies right here in Hong Kong, a truly globalised metropolitan city at the heart of Asia and a place that we call home.
 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Yidan Prize launch ceremony.

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HK to grasp Belt-Road prospects

Chief Executive CY Leung

Nineteen years have passed since Hong Kong returned to the Motherland. With the country’s support, the collaboration of Mainland provinces and cities, and the efforts of Hong Kong people, we have thoroughly implemented the “one country, two systems” arrangement. Taking advantage of unprecedented opportunities, we have made steady progress in social and economic development, and in improving the people’s livelihood.

 

Looking ahead, Hong Kong needs to continue to grasp development opportunities in our country and in the region. We need to look beyond our country, and reach out even more to the world – to expand our economic ties, to enhance people-to-people bonds, to build a larger and stronger external economy, and to strengthen our international relations network. We need to enhance the competitiveness of traditional industries, to nurture emerging industries, and to promote high value-added and diversified industries. Economic development is the only way to continuously improve the people’s livelihood. It is the only way to enable the Government to deploy more resources on poverty alleviation, elderly care and supporting the disadvantaged.

 

This morning at the Belt and Road Summit, Chairman Zhang specifically pointed out in his keynote speech that “Hong Kong is a key link for the Belt and Road” and “an important gateway in the landscape of China’s opening up”. Hong Kong has “advantages as first mover of opening-up and co-operation”, “advantages in professional services”, and “advantages gained from cultural and people-to-people interactions”. “The Central Government attaches great importance to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and its role in the national strategy.” The Central Government supports Hong Kong “in playing an active role” in “building a platform of comprehensive services”, “facilitating capital flows and promoting Renminbi internationalisation and the development of the Belt and Road investment and financing platform”, and “promoting cultural exchanges for greater mutual understanding among the people along the Belt and Road”. The above is part of the Chairman’s keynote speech.

 

The Belt and Road Initiative is a key development strategy of our country. Since the reform and opening up of the Mainland more than 30 years ago, the Belt and Road Initiative provides another huge development opportunity – enormous, diversified, long-term and sustainable. If Hong Kong can fully grasp the development opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative, our economic and social developments will benefit from a new and strong impetus, and our younger generation will have a brighter future in their careers and in life generally.

 

Hong Kong is a highly open metropolis with extensive and close links with overseas communities in many areas. With the unique, combined advantages of “one country” and “two systems”, the rule of law, and our biliterate and trilingual abilities, Hong Kong serves as the “super-connector” between the Mainland and countries around the world. Hong Kong has a large pool of organised, experienced, resourceful and active community organisations. As a result, Hong Kong “super-connects” not only in traditional industries, such as finance, investment, trade, logistics, professional services and tourism, or in emerging industries such as innovation and technology, but also in terms of people-to-people bonds such as in culture, education and scientific research. Hong Kong has all the ingredients to establish ties with Belt and Road countries in all aspects – in the five connectivity areas of policy, facilities, trade, finance and people-to-people bonds.  I have every confidence to implement, step by step, the various policies and measures proposed in my Policy Address this year in support of the Belt and Road Initiative. I believe the various community sectors will, with our usual liberal outlook, pragmatic attitude and flexible approach, continue to deepen interaction and friendship with our friends in Belt and Road regions, and to strengthen co-operation with economic partners in all territories for mutually rewarding progress and the common good.

 

On behalf of the HKSAR Government, I would like to thank the Central Authorities for their unwavering support. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Chairman once again for his visit, for his care about the development of the SAR and the work of the SAR Government. The SAR Government and the Hong Kong people will continue to strive for the joint development of our country and Hong Kong.

 

This is the English translation of Chief Executive CY Leung’s remarks at the welcome banquet hosted by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government in honour of National People’s Congress Standing Committee Chairman Zhang Dejiang.

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HK ready for Belt & Road role

Financial Secretary John Tsang

This is the right moment as well as the right place for us to explore the outsized potential of the Belt & Road Initiative, and how we can work together to take advantage of the massive opportunities that this engenders.

 

I say this is the right moment because the global economy, as we speak, is facing substantial headwinds and downward pressure. Growth of economies around the world in 2016 will be constrained by the sluggish demand as well as the host of uncertainties on the financial, economic, social and political fronts.

 

The Belt & Road Initiative, spanning 60 more countries in three continents that count for 65% of our planet’s population, can indeed inject the much-needed impetus and direction into our global economy in the 21st century.

 

I say this is the right place because Hong Kong, with our unique strengths under the “one country, two systems” framework, has all it takes to play a central role in delivering and in realising the enormous potential of this initiative.

 

Unparalleled connectivity

The Belt & Road Initiative is about integration, connectivity, trade and investment, as well as people-to-people bonding. As a truly globalised metropolitan centre at the heart of Asia, I believe, few can do better than us, few can do better than Hong Kong.

 

Our international and friendly business environment, our sound and robust market structure, our optimal mix of talents and cultures from the East and West, as well as our unparalleled connectivity with the rest of the world, make us the natural hub of the Belt & Road region, be it financial, business or trade.

 

It begins, of course, with the infrastructure projects that would serve to strengthen connectivity among economies along the twin corridors, in the form of railways, highways, ports, power plants and more. According to an Asian Development Bank statistic, Asia will need US$800 billion every year just to cover infrastructure investment needs from now to the year 2020.

 

As an international financial centre, Hong Kong has the requisite experience, we have the requisite expertise, as well as network to serve as the centre for the fundraising, project financing and asset-management for these big-ticket items.

 

Hong Kong currently runs one of the largest stock exchanges in the world. Last year, our stock market ranked first overall in equity funds raised through initial public offerings. We should be able to help meet much of the funding needs for the Belt & Road initiative.

 

Bond business

Today, renminbi liquidity in Hong Kong, which is the largest offshore pool globally, amounts to some RMB900 billion. Our available portfolio of services covers a broad, diversified and mature range, from personal banking and asset management to cross-border trade settlement and bond issuance.

 

Hong Kong’s renminbi bond market is the largest of its kind outside the Mainland. Our dim sum bonds, I should add, consistently attract an extensive range of issuers, including global institutions such as the World Bank and the ADB (Asian Development Bank).

 

The market potential of Islamic finance is also clear and promising, given the large Muslim population living in the Belt & Road region.

 

We have been working hard to develop Islamic finance. And we have made a good start of it. In the past 20 months, we have twice issued Islamic bonds, most recently this time last year. Both issuances were well received, demonstrating Hong Kong’s capability in supporting Shariah-compliant financial products that meet specialised financing needs.

 

And, as I have indicated earlier this year, we shall be issuing our third sukuk in the foreseeable future.

 

While funding requirements for infrastructure projects along the Belt & Road region are sure to be substantial, we see a need to create a focal point here in Hong Kong that would help facilitate the concentration as well as precipitation of interest in promoting critical investments for the overall economic development of the entire Belt & Road region.

 

We are now in the final stage of establishing an Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office under the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to pool together all the stakeholders from the public as well as private sectors on a common platform, where they can exchange timely information and share useful experience, with a view to facilitating co-operative efforts and efficient investments in the realisation of these projects. We expect the Office to be up and running in a couple of months’ time.

 

AIIB effect

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which has just commenced operation in January this year, will be one of the key financial institutions backing the Belt & Road initiative. Hong Kong has been contributing to the establishment as well as the operation of the AIIB. I am sure that they will be looking to take good advantage of our expertise in different areas, from capital market financing and dispute resolution to project assessment as well as asset management.

 

Of course, there is much more that Hong Kong can offer. Our deep pool of world-class talents, in accounting, architecture, urban planning, engineering management and more, can certainly help meet the huge demand for high-end professional services arising from the planning, implementation and operation of the Belt & Road projects.

 

The legal profession is another compelling strength of ours. With the rule of law and our independent judiciary, Hong Kong’s legal professionals are known to lead the field in conducting due diligence, ensuring contract enforcement and helping resolve disputes. These services will certainly come in handy when the projects are in full swing.

 

As an international business and trade centre, we are also proud of our transport network that is comprehensive, proficient and efficient. We are located within five hours’ flying time of half the world’s population. Each day some 1,100 flights connect Hong Kong with hundreds of key destinations around the world. And our airport and ports are among the busiest and most efficient out there.

 

Showcasing strengths

Business conventions and exhibitions, some of which are the largest of their kind in the world, are staged also right here in Hong Kong, here in the convention centre. We are the premier platform for trade facilitation and business matching for the region.

 

Since the 2008 financial tsunami, the global economy has undergone sweeping changes. The emerging markets along the Belt & Road corridors are now playing a much more important and influential role as the global economic centre of gravity shifts towards the East. Hong Kong is now revving up our financial and business engines, and we are readying to take our place in the fast lane of the Belt & Road initiative. So join us on this exciting journey that promises to be full of rewards and full of opportunities.

 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Belt & Road Summit luncheon.

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HK, a unique gateway

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So

The Belt & Road Initiative is a global and broad vision to boost co-development by better linking up economies ranging from the sophisticated to the emerging ones. The Initiative inspires us to think beyond conventional geography and geo-political confines.

 

Through promoting stronger policy co-ordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds among economies spanning Asia, Europe and Africa, the Belt & Road Initiative seeks to generate a new driving force of development in this 21st century.

 

As new markets open up, investments and capital can find new outlets and risks are diversified; while infrastructure improves, connectivity will be expanded and trade barriers reduced; and increased trade flow across countries will bring economic prosperity and enhance social integration across regions, just as the old Silk Road did in ancient times.

 

Making connections

Let us look at Hong Kong. Where do we fit into all this? If integration through trade and co-operation is the ultimate objective of the Belt & Road Initiative, Hong Kong is well-positioned to help in both tangible and intangible ways.

 

Trade is Hong Kong’s lifeblood. We have a long history of international trade over the years. According to the latest world trade survey done by the World Trade Organisation, Hong Kong is the sixth largest exporter of world merchandise, and the eighth largest commercial services exporter. At the same time, we import an enormous amount of goods and services, ranking the fifth and 12th respectively in the world. We trade with over 100 economies globally, in various forms and combinations.

 

Connectivity is one of the golden threads running through the Belt & Road Initiative, and I am proud to say that facilitating connections is also what Hong Kong is good at. This is how we see Hong Kong will contribute to, and benefit from the Belt & Road blueprint.

 

As a special administrative region of China that provides the combined advantages of “one country” and “two systems,” Hong Kong is an international gateway to Mainland China which offers unique physical and intangible connectivity to the Mainland through privileged trade and social access. In physical terms, we are located literally at the heart of Asia and at the gateway of Mainland China, enabling us to reach out to both Mainland China and 48% of the Belt & Road population within five hours. 

 

Hong Kong is also a conduit through which the international community and Mainland China makes connections.

 

Sound fiscal footing

As with all large investment and development programmes, having a sound financial and investment platform is crucial to success. As a global financial hub, Hong Kong hosts 70 of the world’s top 100 banks; our well regulated, open capital markets make us an ideal base for fundraising and investment; and as the world’s largest offshore Renminbi centre and one of the world’s top ODI (outward direct investment) hub, we are ready to aggregate global and Mainland Chinese capital for Belt & Road-related projects.

 

Going hand-in-hand with our financial prowess is our stable legal system and free flow of information. Together with the wide use of English and established trade practices, Hong Kong is the ideal base for global investment, risk management, dispute resolution and project management. Our people too, are multicultural, highly skilled and have extensive networks reaching both the Mainland and the world.

 

These advantages have made Hong Kong the “super-connector”, bringing together the rest of China and the rest of the world, and that, of course, includes economies along the Belt & Road. This also makes us a magnet for business because we are a preferred venue for regional headquarters or representative offices for multinational companies. At last count, about 8,000 international companies have a commercial presence in Hong Kong, with 3,798 regional headquarters and regional offices established in Hong Kong by parent companies from other economies last year. 

 

The direct benefits of this global cluster are many: engaging over 250,000 people in Hong Kong, these companies not only create employment in the city, but also boost and sustain the international experience of our workforce. Hong Kong is also open in terms of our people’s receptiveness of different cultures and values.

 

Our long history of openness has connected us to various places in the world and rendered Hong Kong one of the most user-friendly and adaptive international cities, with a global view of the world.

 

Institutional heritage

As a driver of the Belt & Road Initiative, Mainland China will invariably be interacting with a global footprint of countries. To facilitate this interaction, I must mention here the advantages of doing business through Hong Kong. The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), implemented 13 years ago, provides preferential market access to Hong Kong service suppliers as well as tariff-free treatment for products of Hong Kong origin. That means international businesses established in Hong Kong can enjoy this preferential treatment as with our domestic suppliers. CEPA has become one of the nexus connecting foreign businesses to China through Hong Kong, and will continue to be a freeway serving traffic of the Belt & Road.

 

We ask foreign investors every year why they choose Hong Kong to place their businesses. The response has been consistent over the years – top reasons are low and simple tax, free flow of information, corruption-free government, rule of law, independent judiciary, productivity of our workforce, followed by stability and security, free port status, geographical convenience, communication and transport infrastructure.

 

Hong Kong has achieved all these with our institutional heritage, and I am confident that the same set of strong institutional advantages will make Hong Kong a reliable and beneficial partner to industries and businesses from the Belt & Road, and those who are looking for a well-paved platform to connect their businesses to other Belt & Road economies.

 

In playing a role in the Belt & Road Initiative, we as a government will continue to build infrastructure that facilitates the free flow of investment, trade and people. We are also keen to continue encouraging further trade and investment liberalisation. These include, for example, establishing more free trade agreements, investment promotion and protection agreements, double taxation avoidance arrangements, as well as other formats of regional, plurilateral and multilateral trade rules. The economies where my distinguished panellists come from are all engaging with Hong Kong in some of these trade liberalisation or facilitation negotiations, and we are seeking similar agreements with a wide range of economies along the Belt & Road.

 

Infrastructural edge

Physical infrastructure and logistics networks remain a high priority to help boost connectivity. In this, Belt & Road countries are also well-served by going through Hong Kong. Hong Kong boasts one of the world’s busiest container ports, providing some 350 services a week to more than 500 destinations worldwide.

 

Our 700 shipping-related companies offer a wide range of services, from ship management, broking and chartering to finance, marine insurance, legal, arbitration and many other support services. Our airport has been the busiest cargo airport in the world for more than 15 years. In the years to come, you will see further leaps of quality and handling capacity in our transport and logistics infrastructure.

 

Of course, advanced infrastructure requires the right people to manage it. Hong Kong attracts some of the world’s best professionals, from engineers and surveyors to architects, designers and planners, not to mention other professionals in financing, insurance, arbitration, risk management and project consulting. All of them are excited to take part in the development, management and operation of infrastructural projects under the Belt & Road Initiative. I am very encouraged to hear the supportive keynote speech affirming the Central Government’s support for Hong Kong to play an active role in these areas. Many of them have already gained very visible presence in overseas projects.

 

Take an easy example, our subway system, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), other than carrying five million passengers every weekday in our domestic lines, it is also managing many mass transit systems in the Mainland of China, Asia and Europe. That includes managing the Crossrail of the UK, which is a significant infrastructure project currently in Europe. The MTR will also set up an academy to train personnel in rail management and operation.

 

The global economy is in need of a new and strong driving force in the 21st century. We believe that the Belt & Road Initiative will be that much-needed force. With inherent attributes and a unique advantage as the gateway between China and the world, Hong Kong has a clear role, and we are keen to take part in this endeavour.

 

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So gave these remarks at the Belt & Road Summit “Investment in Belt & Road Countries: Policymakers’ Perspective” panel session. 

via Moroccan Trader HK, a unique gateway

Unprecedented prospects for HK

Chief Executive CY Leung

The Belt & Road Initiative spans more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. It aims to strengthen co-operation on policy, economic and cultural fronts, and to foster mutually rewarding progress among Belt & Road countries.

 

The Initiative offers unprecedented opportunities to all territories, Hong Kong included. With the combined advantages of “one country” and “two systems”, Hong Kong can serve as a “super-connector” between the Mainland of China and the rest of the world. In areas such as finance, investment, professional services, trade, logistics, culture, creativity, innovation and technology, Hong Kong’s unique “super-connector” role can bring together the strengths of Belt & Road economies.

 

The National 13th Five-Year Plan of China clearly supports Hong Kong and Macau leveraging our unique advantages to enhance our roles and functions in the country’s economic development and opening up to other countries, including the Belt & Road Initiative.

 

As China’s international financial centre and the world’s China financial capital, Hong Kong is well positioned to meet the growing demand for financial services, including offshore Renminbi services, in Belt & Road regions.

 

Capitalising strengths

For infrastructure projects, Hong Kong can provide capital, financial channels, asset management, insurance and re-insurance services, contract management, dispute resolution, legal and other professional services. Our endeavour to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a non-sovereign territory will further enhance Hong Kong’s role in the financing of Belt & Road infrastructure projects. With first-rate telecommunications, Hong Kong can provide information services to Mainland Chinese enterprises wishing to expand business overseas.

 

Hong Kong’s professional services are world-class. Our professionals in accounting, legal, dispute resolution, risk assessment, engineering, consulting, project management and many other services are highly regarded for their professional ethics, competence and global outlook.

 

Entering a new business environment, investing in large projects, avoiding and resolving commercial disputes, handling negotiations, establishing business models or dealing with property rights and investment protection – you will find that our Hong Kong professionals are ideal service providers for enterprises from both China and Belt & Road regions.

 

We are also known for our strengths in transportation and logistics services, and are well placed to develop high-end maritime services and tourism. Trade and investment ties with Belt & Road countries are fast expanding.

 

The Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) Government is actively working with our trading partners to conclude free trade agreements, investment promotion and protection agreements, and avoidance of double taxation agreements. We propose partnering with Mainland Chinese enterprises, especially those from neighbouring provinces and regions, to establish and grow trade and commercial relations with Belt & Road countries.

 

Building bonds

Beyond economic relations, Hong Kong looks forward to developing broader and closer people-to-people bonds along the Belt & Road. Our world-class universities, together with the use of English as a teaching language, are a big draw for overseas students. We welcome and encourage cultural exchanges and interaction between our young people through scholarships and exchange programmes.

 

Hong Kong is also home to a large number of community organisations such as trade associations, youth groups, think tanks and other non-government organisations. We also have strong links to overseas Chinese communities. Apart from government-to-government exchanges, we will encourage such organisations in Hong Kong to reach out to Belt & Road counterparts through visits, promotional events, seminars and forums.

 

The Belt & Road Initiative is a vast project – in scope, scale and diversity. As such, the Hong Kong SAR Government is setting up a dedicated Belt & Road office to push forward our plans. We will work closely with the Central Authorities of China and our Belt & Road partners to ensure effective co-ordination of policies and measures, to identify areas of collaboration, and to facilitate timely exchange of information for our common good.

 

Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the Belt & Road Summit on May 18.

via Moroccan Trader Unprecedented prospects for HK

Xiqu Centre nears completion

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

Welcome to the roof-raising ceremony for the Xiqu Centre to celebrate an important milestone in the delivery of this project. The approximately 2,400-tonne steel structure of the main theatre has already been lifted to its final position. This milestone marks the countdown to the completion of the construction works of the Xiqu Centre in 2017. 

 

The Xiqu Centre will become the first landmark performing arts venue in the West Kowloon Cultural District. Upon its opening in 2018, it will bring to the public a main theatre with 1,100 seats, a tasteful tea house theatre, arts education and rehearsal facilities, and a spacious Xiqu Plaza.

 

Alongside the construction of the Xiqu Centre, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority has organised a wide variety of programmes to drive the artistic and professional development and enhance audience-building. The successful “Rising Stars of Cantonese Opera” series will return this August. We are very honoured to have Mr Law Ka-ying as the curator again to lead the performances of selected Cantonese opera talents and rising stars of previous years. I have high hopes that the series will give these rising stars opportunities to shine onstage and pass on the tradition of the Xiqu art form.

 

As Chairman of the Board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, I would like to thank the project team for their hard work, as well as the arts and cultural sector for its unfailing support. Let’s work together to take Cantonese opera to the next level and to the global stage through the Xiqu Centre.

 

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the West Kowloon Cultural District Xiqu Centre roof-raising celebration on May 16. 

via Moroccan Trader Xiqu Centre nears completion