Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Building a better HK

Chief Executive CY Leung

This past year was full of opportunities and challenges. Politically, we had the historic opportunity to move towards the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage. The local community devoted a great deal of time and energy to this issue. Some people, however, were unwilling to accept the principles laid down in the Basic Law and the relevant Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress; they misjudged the bottom line of the Central Authorities.


In the end, 40% of the Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) voted against the package of proposals for universal suffrage. Since it was not endorsed by a two-thirds majority of LegCo Members, the proposals came to nothing. Moreover, the unlawful occupy movement, which lasted 79 days, posed sustained and serious threats to social order and the rule of law. The general public resolutely disapproved of the unlawful acts, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the Police Force exercised the highest degree of patience and restraint. Today, I would like to express again my respect and thanks to my political team, to my colleagues in the civil service, including the Police Force, and to the general public.


With universal suffrage voted down, Hong Kong has missed a valuable opportunity for democratic development. Nevertheless, in the process of constitutional reform, the local community did affirm the basic constitutional principles governing Hong Kong and the necessity of abiding by the Basic Law and other legal provisions in managing our affairs.


Capitalise on opportunities

Although constitutional reform took up a considerable part of our time and efforts over the past year, the HKSAR Government did not overlook its work to boost the economy and improve the livelihood of the people of Hong Kong. On the economic front, opportunities and challenges existed side by side. The development of our country and the advantages of both "one country" and "two systems" continue to provide favourable conditions for Hong Kong's economic development, to the envy of many.


Notable developments over the past year include the official launch of Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the mutual recognition of funds between the Mainland and Hong Kong, with effect from today, and the early realisation of basic liberalisation of trade in services between Hong Kong and Guangdong Province.


Our economic partners abroad also pay great attention to Hong Kong's role as a "super-connector". In April, I attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leadership Forum in Malaysia. There, I had bilateral meetings with the leaders of six ASEAN member states to promote economic and trade co-operation between Hong Kong and ASEAN countries, as well as talks on the free trade agreement with ASEAN.


Last month, I went to Toronto in Canada and Chicago in the United States to attend major promotional events organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. I met more than 2,000 Canadian and US political and business leaders. They showed keen interest in Hong Kong's roles and advantages, and expressed full confidence in Hong Kong's political, social and economic situations.


According to the World Investment Report, released last week by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Hong Kong ranked second last year in global foreign direct investment inflow and outflow. Our inflow of US$103 billion and outflow of US$143 billion ranked behind only Mainland China and the United States respectively. The fact that Hong Kong, a city, placed second - behind only the two largest economies in the world - underlines our status as a "super-connector".


Thanks to our "one country, two systems" arrangement, Hong Kong will also serve as a bridge between Mainland China and the rest of the world in the Mainland's emerging "One Belt, One Road" initiatives. Our world-class trading, logistics, business and professional services and financial sectors can play the triple roles of investor, intermediary and supporter.


The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is another important Mainland initiative. Here, too, Hong Kong can help, in areas such as project financing, bond issuance, investment, financial management and foreign-exchange management. We can also provide legal, engineering, accounting and other professional services for the planning and implementation of AIIB infrastructure projects. This will bring about more development opportunities for our professional and financial services.


Overcoming challenges

While rewarding opportunities abound, we are also facing a host of challenges. With intense external competition, we must strive to remain relevant. In some areas, such as innovation and technology, Hong Kong is clearly lagging behind and must act fast to catch up. The slackening economic growth of Mainland China and the European debt crisis will also have an impact on Hong Kong. In recent years, some have played down the importance of economic activity and development, or even damaged Hong Kong's reputation, turning a blind eye to the social consequences of a weakened economy. We must stay alert.


The purpose of boosting the economy is clear. We do it to improve people's livelihood. Two of our major livelihood issues today are housing and poverty.


The Long Term Housing Strategy, announced last December, is the Government's first long-term strategic document on housing since 1998. It sets out housing supply targets for the next 10 years. The efforts made by the current-term Government since taking office to increase housing land supply have begun to show results. According to our forecast, the completion of private domestic units next year will reach a 10-year high, exceeding the average annual production of the past decade by 72 per cent. This should begin to alleviate the shortage that has built up over a prolonged period of time. The HKSAR Government will continue to increase housing land supply through rezoning. I hope that all sectors, as well as the local communities concerned, will support these efforts.


Our poverty alleviation work has also begun to bear fruit. We have set a poverty line, and are working to reduce Hong Kong's poor population. At present, the overall poor population has dropped below 1 million. In the years ahead, we will continue to do our best to alleviate poverty in Hong Kong.


As the experience of some European democracies shows, democratic systems and procedures are no panacea for economic and livelihood issues. For nearly two of the three years since this Government took office, we have spent much of our energy on constitutional reform. Now that universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive has been rejected, the Government needs the support and co-operation of the entire community, if we are to boost the economy and improve the livelihood of the people of Hong Kong. If a handful of LegCo Members continue to resort to filibustering in avoidance of a democratic vote, and if individual members of the public deliberately abuse administrative and judicial procedures to stall the development of our society, little can be achieved - however hard the Government and the community at large may try.


In the 18 years since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, we have worked together to overcome many difficulties, many challenges. We have also worked together to capitalise on numerous opportunities. As long as we set aside differences and work for the long-term interest of Hong Kong, in a pragmatic and proactive manner, I am confident we can build a more prosperous, stable and harmonious Hong Kong.


Chief Executive CY Leung gave this speech at the reception in celebration of the 18th anniversary of the establishment of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

HK a key investment conduit for China

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So

It is fitting for today's forum to focus on Asia and to take place in Hong Kong, because Asia represents one of the best opportunities for foreign direct investment, or FDI, globally, and Hong Kong is well positioned to both attract FDI and to facilitate FDI throughout Asia.


Why? Because FDI is one of the big success stories for Hong Kong. According to the World Investment Report 2015 published just last week by the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development, Hong Kong ranked No. 2 in global FDI inflows, second only to Mainland China.


At the same time, Hong Kong was the world's second largest outward investing economy, second only to the United States. In particular, we have a significant volume of trade and investment flows with Mainland China. As at the end of 2013, inward direct investment (IDI) from the Mainland to Hong Kong was $3.3 trillion, accounting for 32% of the total IDI in Hong Kong.


Reciprocally, outward direct investment from Hong Kong to the Mainland was $3.95 trillion, accounting for nearly half of the national total for Mainland China.


What these figures demonstrate is that Hong Kong is both a prominent source and destination for FDI, and that Hong Kong remains the most important investment conduit for Mainland China.


You may ask, what makes Hong Kong such an ideal place for investment? First, Hong Kong is a free and competitive economy. We follow the common law legal system and adopt internationally recognised codes of practice in business and commerce. We have a low and simple tax system with no goods and services tax or value-added tax.


Freest economy

We have a clean and efficient government and a level playing field for all companies. Indeed, you would expect nothing less from an economy that is consistently ranked as the freest in the world. We have retained the top spot in the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom for 21 years in a row. This status reflects real advantages for investing and doing businesses in Hong Kong.


Of course, we are also blessed with the geographical advantage. Our location has enabled us to become the key platform between Mainland China and the world in business collaboration and investment flows.


We are strategically located at the heart of Asia and on the doorstep of Mainland China. Half of the world's population can be reached within five hours' flight time from Hong Kong. For businesses and investors looking to tap into Asia's huge market potential, we are the most convenient base, providing world-class transport, and unrivalled logistic and information and communication technology infrastructure.


Belt-Road initiatives to boost trade

Speaking of location, I must mention the One Belt, One Road initiatives announced by the Central Government. The Belt-Road initiatives will certainly expand Mainland China's transcontinental connectivity, and promote economic, political and cultural co-operation and development from Asia through Africa and into Europe.


These initiatives will bring tremendous business and investment opportunities to those economies situated along these land and maritime silk roads. As Hong Kong is a major international financial centre for Mainland China, we have the experience, the expertise and the connections to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for the One Belt, One Road.


Foreign investors will definitely benefit from the One Belt, One Road initiatives by establishing a foothold in Hong Kong to seize the business opportunities.


Removing barriers

What's more, we are making great efforts to improve investment and trade facilitation and to remove investment and trade barriers with the rest of Asia. Our focus is on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries, India and countries in the Middle East. We are striving to conclude free trade agreements as well as investment promotion and protection agreements with these countries to promote free flow of trade and investments.


And in recent years, Hong Kong has signed Comprehensive Double Taxation Agreements with major trading partners to promote Hong Kong's favourable tax status and enhance its tax transparency internationally. At present, we have signed 32 CDTAs, including 11 with Asian countries. We will spare no effort to enter into more CDTAs.


We believe that by providing an investment- and business-friendly environment, we can attract not only conventional business and investments, but also new and innovative companies. In fact, we have quite an increasing number of entrepreneurs and start-ups setting up new business in Hong Kong.


Valuable networking opportunities

Over the past couple of years, there has been an upsurge in private incubators, accelerators and shared working spaces in Hong Kong. For example, the number of co-work spaces in Hong Kong continues to climb to well over 40, from just three in 2010.


These platforms offer valuable networking opportunities for start-ups. They build connections with potential investors, with business professionals for advice and training, with seasoned entrepreneurs for mentoring, and with industrialists for co-operation opportunities.


In fact, quite a number of our start-ups have made remarkable achievements - some have secured substantial investments, some have been acquired by large corporations, while others have carved their niches in the global marketplace.


You are indeed looking at a future of great opportunities here in Hong Kong. We encourage overseas and Mainland companies, large or small, as well as start-ups and entrepreneurs, to establish a presence or expand their business in Hong Kong. We stand ready to offer one-on-one facilitation services to them through the dedicated efforts of our government agency, Invest Hong Kong. Our aim is to make investing in Hong Kong as simple and easy as possible.


Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So gave these remarks at the fDi Forum Asia 2015: Capitalising on a Global Investment.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Thursday, 25 June 2015

TSA for learning, not drilling

Deputy Secretary for Education Catherine Chan

Recently, there have been voices casting doubts over the purposes and value of the Territory-wide System Assessment. Let us take a close look at the TSA and you will understand why Hong Kong needs one.


No ranking of schools and pressure on students and parents


The TSA is a low-stakes assessment on the basic competencies in Chinese Language, English Language and Mathematics of students at the end of Primary 3, Primary 6 and Secondary 3. As each student is only required to attempt some of the assessment questions, the TSA does not and cannot assess individual students. As the data is neither used to select students nor to rank or classify schools, the TSA should not exert pressure on schools and teachers to compete for ranking and resources, inducing indirect pressure on students and parents.


No need to drill - Leaving space for learning


Basic competencies indicate the minimally acceptable knowledge and skill level necessary for learners at P3, P6 and S3 to progress to the next key stage without extra learning support. Therefore, students should have acquired the basic competencies through daily learning, and neither excessive drilling for the test nor purchasing additional TSA practice papers is necessary. Instead, students should be motivated and be given space to learn more effectively in appropriate ways such as reading.


To help alleviate the excessive drilling practices in schools, the Education Bureau announced in April 2014 that the attainment rates of BCs in the TSA would no longer be released to individual primary schools. Schools should have no special incentive to drill their students but make fuller use of the TSA Item Analysis Reports to understand the students' strengths and weaknesses so as to provide tailored learning support.


Reliable data for learning in schools


Since its introduction in 2004, the TSA has served the function of promoting Assessment for Learning by providing quality and reliable data and information annually to schools which helps teachers formulate plans to improve the effectiveness of learning and teaching based on the assessment data and their own development needs.


The Education Bureau had collected views from teachers and parents in 2011 and 2013, in addition to a questionnaire survey conducted by the Hong Kong Examinations & Assessment Authority in 2008 in which 96% of the responding schools confirmed that their teachers had made reference to the TSA data in enhancing their teaching plans. Most teachers found the school reports useful and agreed that the TSA could provide an objective system context for schools to especially diagnose overall student abilities at primary levels so that early intervention to provide relevant learning support could be made.


Government's role


The territory-wide data help the Government review policies and provide focused support to schools on an overall basis. Every year the Education Bureau and the HKEAA hold seminars for teachers to facilitate the use of the updated and objective data. The Education Bureau also provides a range of school-based support services and sharing networks to build teachers' capacity in analysing assessment data, developing school-based curricula, learning and teaching, and planning assessment strategies.


Not unique to Hong Kong


Assessments of similar nature for young students are conducted in a number of countries, e.g. Australia, Canada, the US, and even in some developing countries. Abolishing the TSA would represent a regression in this respect.


Practices in effective schools


Effective schools do not treat the TSA data as the only indicator of students' performance or make superficial ranking or comparison within or among schools. These schools make fuller use of the TSA Item Analysis Reports and other available assessment information in schools to understand their students' strengths and weaknesses in various learning dimensions, thereby improving learning and teaching.


We appeal to schools to attach importance to maintaining students' interest in learning when preparing for the TSA, so as to avoid putting them under unnecessary pressure and affecting the effectiveness of learning.


Looking forward


The Education Bureau will continue to maintain close communication with the school sector and parents through various channels and gauge the views of schools and parents on the TSA. Key messages to dispel misconceptions towards the TSA will also be disseminated through seminars, video clips, leaflets and other appropriate channels.


We have confidence that, with time, schools would gradually adjust their excessive drilling practices in a professional manner, bringing about a positive change to the assessment culture in schools.


Deputy Secretary for Education Catherine Chan wrote this article and posted it on Insider's Perspective on June 26.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320