Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the Joint Opening Ceremony of World SME Expo and Inno Design Tech Expo at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning (December 3):
Fred (Lam)(Executive Director of HKTDC), Distinguished Guests, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning to you all.
It is indeed my great pleasure to join you all for the opening of the World SME Expo and the Inno Design Tech Expo.I would like to extend our warmest welcome to Hong Kong to all our visitors.
Once again, we have two great Expos under one roof.
It is no coincidence that commerce and innovation have combined to produce these two popular and vibrant events.The two sectors are now more inter-dependent than ever.On the one hand, increasing competition and increasing globalisation have got companies constantly looking for the latest trends and designs.On the other hand, new technologies are shaping the focus of innovation and the way that we do business.All this as governments look to SMEs and innovators to pull us out of the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s and achieve ever more sustainable development.
We recently identified innovation and technology as an industry with great potential to lead Hong Kongs recovery and long-term economic growth.Our strategy is to clear away some of the obstacles to grow the industry, so it can reach its full potential.
The best way to do this, it seems to me, is to encourage our business community to embrace the culture of innovation.
In the Policy Address in October, our Chief Executive introduced an R&D Cash Rebate Scheme.Under the scheme, enterprises conducting applied R&D will enjoy a cash rebate equivalent to 10 per cent of their R&D investment.This is a HK$200 million initiative that will begin in April next year with the aim of fostering a strong research culture among enterprises.
We want to encourage firms to build up long-term partnerships with research institutions. This will sharpen their competitive edge and also help to promote the innovation and technology industry.
The past year has been a rough time for companies across the board.Credit has been in short supply; demand has been weak and uncertainty high.In other words, it has been a perfect storm for SMEs.
In recent months, we have seen a break in the clouds.The Hong Kong economy emerged from recession in the second quarter of this year with strong quarter-on-quarter growth of 3.3 per cent.The growth trend continued in the third quarter of this year.
Our unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2 per cent, and the value of retail sales in October increased almost 10 per cent (9.8%) compared with a year ago.
These are all positive signs for SMEs, which account for about 98 per cent of our businesses and employ over half of our population.
As the building blocks of our economy, SMEs have played a pivotal role in our recovery process, but there is no room for complacency.
This time last year, at the height of the financial crisis, we introduced a $100 billion special loan guarantee scheme for banks to extend credit to our SMEs.Loan guarantees have been provided to some 15 000 firms that employ about a quarter of a million people.We recently extended the scheme until mid-2010 to continue to tide over the needs of SMEs during this very challenging recovery period.
Back in 1999, the Government set up the Innovation and Technology Fund to give impetus to industry.The Fund has so far supported more than1 700 projects to the tune of almost HK$5 billion.These projects have brought about technological upgrading, and encouraged collaboration between industries and academia.
These Expos provide a wonderful opportunity to strengthen collaboration between the commerce and innovation which, I should mention, both fall under my purview in Government.
Finally, I would like to thank TDC for organising this event.I wish you all a successful Expo, and a very enjoyable stay in Hong Kong.
Thank you very much.