Skip to main content
Financial Secretary


Injecting energy into the economy and enhancing efficacy of district work

Time passes unnoticed, and here we are in early May. Since the full resumption of convenient travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland and the rest of the world, the number of inbound visitors has surged. Local residents have also shown greater willingness to spend money, dine out and shop more frequently. As the local economy and atmosphere continue to improve, members of the public are becoming more optimistic about Hong Kong's economic outlook this year. While the activities held under the “Happy Hong Kong” campaign have created a relaxing and joyful atmosphere in the city, the consumption vouchers issued in mid-April have also injected energy to the retail and catering business.

The second Gourmet Marketplace is being held at the Sha Tin Town Hall Plaza and the Sha Tin Park this weekend. Yesterday, I officiated at its opening ceremony.

The Gourmet Marketplace, one of the highlights of the “Happy Hong Kong” campaign, took place at the Sha Tin Town Hall Plaza and Sha Tin Park this weekend. Benefiting from the high patronage and business turnover of the first marketplace held in Wan Chai the previous week, the Sha Tin marketplace has gathered more active participation from exhibitors and enthusiastic public response. After officiating at the opening ceremony yesterday, I showed my support by visiting various booths, and tried both local snacks and delicacies from different places. Apart from Chinese cuisines such as Kansu mutton, Chiu Chow kung fu tea and hand-made beef balls, as well as Fukien-style wonton soup, there were also local flavours like siu mai, egg tarts and Hong Kong-style milk tea. Visitors watched children's spectacular performances of unicorn dance and cheerleading while enjoying delicious food. The nostalgic tea café decorations also made a fantastic photo spot. The marketplaces held on the Hong Kong Island and in the New Territories definitely had its own charm.

The cheerful and optimistic atmosphere, together with the return of tourists to Hong Kong, has benefitted the consumption market. Total restaurant receipts surged by 82% year-on-year to $27.56 billion in the first quarter of the year. While part of the increase was due to the low base effect, the amount was still the highest in more than three years. The value of retail sales also rose by 24% year-on-year over the same period, and has exceeded $30 billion for four consecutive months from December 2022 to March this year. Private consumption expenditure grew sharply by 12.5% year-on-year in real terms in the first quarter of the year, and exports of services rose notably by 16.9%, thanks to the recovery in inbound tourism. Fixed investment also reversed its downtrend and rebounded by 5.8% amid the positive economic outlook. However, overall exports of goods still recorded a 18.7% decline amid the weak external environment and further uncertainties. As a result, while our GDP ended four consecutive quarters of declines, it only grew moderately by 2.7% year-on-year in the first quarter this year.

These figures show that Hong Kong's economic recovery is still in its initial stage and needs to be strengthened. In particular, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point last week. Even though the market expects that the current rate hike cycle may soon come to an end, interest rates will remain high for some time. This, alongside the failure of one bank after another in the US, has heightened market concerns and brought more uncertainties to the external economy.

In summary, we need to do our utmost to strengthen the momentum of the local recovery. If the external market conditions do not suddenly deteriorate, then with the series of measures we have introduced to support domestic demand and the continued improvement in imports and exports of goods from the Mainland, the Hong Kong economy is expected to improve further during the year. I believe that our economy will get better quarter by quarter, and this year will be better than last year.

I visited a number of booths in the Gourmet Marketplace in Sha Tin yesterday and tried local snacks and delicacies from different places.
The Gourmet Marketplace is taken forward with active coordination by government departments, and strongly supported by the catering industry, chambers of commerce, clansmen associations and charitable groups.

Many of the “Happy Hong Kong” activities reach out to local communities whereby members of the public may invite their neighbours, families and friends to participate in the activities that take place in the district they live or work and share the joyful experiences together. The Gourmet Marketplace is taken forward under the leadership of the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau, with coordination by the Home Affairs Department and collaboration by District Offices. We also received tremendous support from the catering industry, chambers of commerce, clansmen associations and charitable groups. District work concerns the daily livelihood of the public and is at the forefront in serving the public, involving various government departments, organisations and stakeholders. The Government and our district partners must put people in the centre, be practical and pragmatic, and properly gauge the pulse of the local community; and by proactive planning and steer, deliver concrete outcomes in the work on people's livelihood and community management.

From district governance to community management, there is a need for clear direction as well as pragmatic and practical targets. They also need to meet the needs of community members and deliver practical outcomes. Improving the district governance structure will put an end to the chaos in the District Councils (DCs) in the past; through the introduction of an appropriate system, clear responsibilities and division of labour, district work will truly focus on improving community services and people's livelihoods. The proposals on improving governance at the district level announced by the HKSAR Government last week seek to achieve this goal. The proposals will effectively restore the DCs back to their positioning of district advisory and service organisations which are not organs of political power under Article 97 of the Basic Law. The proposals are in line with three guiding principles, namely according top priority to national security; fully implementing “patriots administering Hong Kong”; and practising “executive-led” governance. The improved district governance structure will strengthen the management and coordination of district work, enhance the efficacy of governance at the district level, and steer relevant work to a more focused and constructive direction, so that it can better serve the people and respond to their needs.

In striving for economic development in a new era and a new stage, we are in dire need of a stable political and social environment, which will allow Hong Kong to focus on high‑quality development and enhance people's quality of life, thereby forging ahead steadily at this crucial stage of advancing from good governance to prosperity.

May 7, 2023

BrandHK | 香港品牌