Secretary for Development's speech at the opening ceremony of MIPIM Asia 2008 (English only)

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the opening ceremony of MIPIM Asia 2008 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wan Chai today (November 19) :

Good morning, Mr Zilk, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, I wish first of all to congratulate MIPIM Asia for hosting its third annual event in Hong Kong. It really gives me great honour to follow my Financial Secretary's footsteps last year to welcome over 2,000 participants from 50 countries here in Hong Kong. As Paul just mentioned, we are now in a once in a life time financial turmoil. Staging of MIPIM Asia at this time in Hong Kong is not only the usual exciting conference and exhibition that we have seen, but it also provides an exclusive platform for key players in the property market to interact, and hopefully to exchange ideas on coming up with even more wonderful projects. To me this is also a display of all of you in the audience a needed entrepreneurial spirit. It is also a vote of confidence in the Asian property market, and a spirit, as I am sure you all exemplify, of seeing opportunities amidst crisis, and the ability to turn adversity into challenges. I am particularly pleased that MIPIM Asia 2008 has again chosen Hong Kong. And in fact Mr Zilk has told me, he has already booked this place for the fourth MIPIM Asia 2009. After all, we are Hong Kong people, and aspired to be a greater MICE centre in Hong Kong. The Financial Secretary in opening  MIPIM Asia 2007 has shared with the audience and talked about Hong Kong's unique strengths and our competitive edges. While we claim to be Asia's world city, and to be a MICE centre for the world, we have the world's freest economy, we have a free flow of information. People and businesses here are very business-friendly. We are proud of our rule of law, and fortunately a gateway to the Mainland of China. Of course despite the financial turmoil we have seen, Hong Kong is still a world's financial centre. And on top of that, we are an aviation hub, very efficient transport network, and most important of all for all of you in the business, we operate on a level-playing field.

But today I do not want to repeat or elaborate on what my Financial Secretary had said. I just want to share with you my role and my contribution to property development in Hong Kong as the Secretary for Development. As it is no doubt that the real estate market had suffered a bit of setback most recently. We have seen transactions and prices coming down a bit but I can assure you, as I am sure my colleagues in Hong Kong's real estate profession will over the next two or three days, fundamentals in Hong Kong for real estate development are very strong, opportunities are abundant. First of all, in terms of land supply, which my bureau is responsible for, we will continue to create land needed to meet Hong Kong's various development needs. At the moment as one of the Chief Executive's 10 major infrastructures, we have just commenced a major study - planning and engineering study - to look at new development areas in the northern part of the New Territories because we realise that we could not continue to build on Hong Kong Island and in the urban areas of Kowloon and most important of all, we could no longer claim from this beautify Victoria Harbour. In terms of land supply, the Hong Kong SAR Government operates on important principles of certainty, consistency and clarity and we rely on a market-driven approach and the supply of land. We are operating on an application list where we try to inject into the list as many land as possible to meet various needs of Hong Kong but we look to the market to take the initiative, depending on the best commercial sense to take the sites out from the application list for development and I will particularly say as I have said earlier on about Hong Kong’s role as a MICE centre, that this year is the first year that we have put into the application list sites which are entirely and dedicated for hotel development. In other words, we are only selling certain pieces of land for hotel use only and I hope that this will strengthen Hong Kong's economic infrastructure for a MICE industry.  Secondly my bureau is also responsible for overseeing the Government's infrastructure investment. Anyone of you who care to read about newspapers these days will notice this is 10 mega infrastructure that the Chief Executive has mentioned since his first policy address in this term of government in October 2007.  These 10 mega infrastructure will cost an estimated $250 billion between now and the next decade. I would particularly highlight that half of the 10 mega infrastructure that we are planning are promoting integration between Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Mainland of China because we all realised that this is where the road will be in the next decade. Amongst the 10 mega infrastructure, a very important transport infrastructure that will improve the connectivity between Hong Kong and the Mainland. First and foremost is the much talked about Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Then we are planning   an express rail link. That will have its terminus in the West Kowloon Cultural District and all the way through Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Third we are planning at a pretty good progress a new boundary control point at the eastern part of Hong Kong connecting Hong Kong to the eastern part of Shenzhen and then all the way to the eastern part of Guangdong and the Fujian Province. The Hong Kong International Airport has been voted time and again as the world’s most efficient airport. We are not complacent. Apart from studying a third runway, we have a study underway to explore the connections between Hong Kong International Airport and the Shenzhen Airport which no doubt will enhance our role as an aviation hub.

Domestically we are also improving our transport infrastructure through investments in our West Island Line. That will take the Mass Transit Railway beyond Central and Sheung Wan. We are also building a South Island Line that will connect Admiralty to Ocean Park and all the way to the railway developments in Ap Lei Chau. Another massive domestic line is of course the Sha Tin-Central Link that will connect Sha Tin through a fourth harbour crossing into the central part of Hong Kong.  By and large over the next decade, Hong Kong will add 100 kilometers of railway to the 200 kilometers that we now have. This is both improving Hong Kong’s connectivity and also contributing to a greener environment. But we realised that in order to be Hong Kong - “Asia’s World City” and to attract international investors, we need to have diversified infrastructure so it is not just building houses and building offices and roads.  In terms of diversifying infrastructure, we have this West Kowloon Cultural District Authority which you can see out of the window, a 40-hectare reclaimed land which will in future house a total of 17 performance venues and museums and make Hong Kong join the league of real cultural hubs in New York and in London. Not far away from here, if you look east we have the Kai Tak Development which is a 200-hectare development site for both housing and office needs, and most excitingly the international cruise terminal and a 45,000-seat stadium for Hong Kong sports development.

Apart from diversifying infrastructure, something that is very close to my heart as the Secretary for Development is building for quality. Hong Kong people, visitors, investors, coming to live and work in Hong Kong want Hong Kong to be a quality place to live. So, my bureau is also responsible for some of the important things that hopefully through our efforts will make Hong Kong a better place to live, apart from, of course, the very impressive portfolio on environmental measures which my colleague, the Secretary for Environment, is responsible for.

Within my portfolio, enhancing the Victoria Harbour and creating promenades on both sides of the Victoria Harbour front is top on my agenda. I also have responsibility for Hong Kong's heritage conservation. I always believe that any city, any quality city, is defined, not only by its progress, but also by its history. As the CE has mentioned recently, apart from adding one extra country park to Hong Kong’s 23 country parks occupying 44 per cent of Hong Kong’s land, we are going to create a 24th country park on the northern part of Lantau where we have this Hong Kong International Airport and to establish the first geology park on the northern part of Hong Kong.

On top of that, we are also devoting more attention to green buildings.  I am pleased to say that either towards the end of this year or early next year, through industry efforts, not purely Government initiative, Hong Kong will have its first Hong Kong Green Building Council to set standards, to do rating and assessment and also to promote green building practices in Hong Kong.

But I realise that all these are really what any Government could do but they are not enough especially in a place like Hong Kong where we boast to be small government, big market, so facilitating private sector development and investment particularly at this point in time is extremely important.

I am therefore very appreciative for the efforts of MIPIM Asia. I am sure through these few days of exhibition, networking and conferences, you will find more opportunities for investing in Hong Kong's property development. But in order to facilitate the contribution of the private sector, my bureau also has a part of play, because we look after the whole spectrum of development process from town planning to land disposal and also to building control. So I want to promise you that my colleagues and myself will do all we can to ensure that your interactions with Government bureaux and departments in the course of the development process will be pleasant and business-friendly.  So with those remarks I wish you a wonderful conference in Hong Kong and look forward to receiving you year and year again in future.  Thank you very much.

Ends/Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Issued at HKT 19:18