Chief Executive CY Leung
The Belt & Road is one of the most ambitious projects in the 21st century, embracing more than 60 countries on three continents, covering 4.4 billion people, and accounting for over 30% of global economic value. It is also multifaceted, encompassing infrastructure, finance, trade, and people to people exchanges.
To be sure, the Belt & Road is a long-term vision, and that will drive the development of the world in the next two to three decades. Including, of course, that of Hong Kong’s.
When Mr Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, attended the Belt & Road Summit in Hong Kong last May, he said in his keynote speech that Hong Kong is “a key link for the Belt & Road” and that “the Central Government has made it a major policy to support Hong Kong’s participation in the Belt & Road development”.
In particular, the Chairman highlighted Hong Kong’s advantages in professional services – infrastructure development, financial services, engineering, consultancy, accounting, law and others. Our professionals are, after all, highly regarded not only for their professional expertise and competence, but also for their professional ethics and global connection. And we have the combined advantages under “one country, two systems” – close ties with the Mainland coupled with rich experience and expertise in working with the rest of the world.
All these have given Hong Kong an edge in servicing infrastructure developments – one of the five areas of connectivity under the Belt & Road initiative.
As China’s international financial centre and the world’s China financial centre, Hong Kong is well positioned to finance the massive infrastructure projects along the Belt & Road.
To start with, our stock market is one of the world’s largest, topping global ranking in equity funds raised through initial public offerings. It helps, as well, that we are the world’s largest offshore renminbi business hub, as the renminbi is likely to emerge as a key currency of exchange among Belt & Road companies and projects. It is no secret that a number of Belt & Road dedicated infrastructure funds are being established in Hong Kong, thus reinforcing our hub status in implementing infrastructure projects overseas.
AIIB boosts HK Belt-Road status
Our aspiration as the Belt & Road’s financing centre got a major boost, just two weeks ago, with the approval of Hong Kong’s membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB. This will put a spotlight on Hong Kong and what we can offer – project loans, bond issuance, treasury management, private equity investments and many others.
Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office, or IFFO, under the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, has built up support for the industry to invest in infrastructure projects. The IFFO now boasts some 60 members – ranging from multilateral financial agencies, development banks, private and public sector investors, to insurance companies and professional service firms – all keen to ride the wave of Belt & Road opportunities.
More than capital is needed to get the Belt & Road projects off the drawing board. Engineers, architects, planners, builders, project managers, consultants, operators – these are the professionals who get things up and running, who turn vision into reality.
And we are not exactly starting from scratch. Indeed, quite a few of our local professional firms are well established in the Belt & Road countries, including India, Vietnam, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, among others.
To help Hong Kong professionals enhance competitiveness and build connections with the Belt & Road counterparts, I announced the creation of a $200 million Professional Services Advancement Support Scheme in my Policy Address last year. The programme, now up and running, supports professionals in their exchange, co-operation and publicity activities targeting overseas markets, including those along the Belt & Road. I encourage you to take good advantage of it.
At your annual dinner, I talked at some length about the infrastructure projects that the Hong Kong Government is taking forward. But more than hardware, what we have been promoting to the world in the past couple of years is our expertise in managing transport facilities as well – railways, highways, ports and airports. These management services are certainly in demand in many Belt & Road countries, especially emerging economies.
MTR Academy benefits Belt-Road
Last year, we set up the MTR Academy, a training and research centre for the railway industry and professionals from Hong Kong, the Mainland of China and around the world. We are now in discussion with rail operators from a number of Belt & Road countries on providing training programmes for their railway professionals.
Last year, as well, we opened the Hong Kong International Aviation Academy to groom aviation talents. The Academy already signed an agreement with France’s National School of Civil Aviation to jointly develop an air transport management programme. More is on the way.
This February, the Secretary for Transport & Housing led a delegation to London and Hamburg to promote Hong Kong’s maritime services. The delegation, comprising members from the Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board and the maritime sector, met with representatives of the local governments and the maritime industry to explore collaboration opportunities.
So Hong Kong has much to offer to the Belt & Road Initiative. And the Government will continue to support our businesses and professionals in pursuing opportunities in Belt & Road countries.
Last year, we set up a dedicated Belt & Road Office and appointed a commissioner. In this year’s Policy Address, I announced that we will expand the office and give it considerably more resources to execute business plans.
I am glad that the country’s Central Authorities have given Hong Kong full support in participating in the Belt & Road. We are discussing with the Authorities on how we can participate jointly in Belt & Road projects, and are preparing to take part in the Belt & Road Forum for International Co-operation to be held in Beijing next month.
Last month, Premier Li Keqiang announced in the Hong Kong & Macao section of this year’s Central Government work report the launch of a joint study to prepare a development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area. This region, at the southern tip of China, is a strategic point of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It presents ample opportunities for all the 11 cities in the region to work together. And one area of collaboration is clearly the joint exploration of overseas markets between Hong Kong and Guangdong, with Guangdong providing the construction works and Hong Kong the professional services, including contract negotiation, contract management, project management and facilities management.
Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers Conference “Our Hub•Your Future in Belt & Road” on April 7.
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