Guangdong aims to tap HK to boost its services sector

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

Guangdong governor Huang Huahua vowed yesterday to increase co-operation with Hong Kong in the professional and services sectors after the province set a new target of 'energetically developing the modern services industry'.

Mr Huang was speaking at the opening session of the 11th Guangdong People's Congress, attended by 790 congress deputies and 950 delegates from the Guangdong provincial People's Political Consultative Conference. He told the gathering that in the coming five years the province would 'strengthen co-operation with Hong Kong and Macau on professional services such as law and accounting, and modern services industries such as logistics, finance, the events industry and tourism'.

It is the first time in three years Mr Huang has mentioned the topic in his annual work report. It lists development of the services sector as a priority target in the next five years.

Plans to push forward development of manufacturing were given a relatively low priority this year.

Mr Huang said in the report that Guangdong's gross domestic product, at more than 3 trillion yuan, exceeded Taiwan's last year, after surpassing Singapore's in 1998 and Hong Kong's in 2003.

He has set a GDP target for 2012 of 4.5 trillion yuan, which would require an average annual rise of 9 per cent.

Mr Huang admitted the province faced the challenges of industrial restructuring, rapidly rising production costs and unbalanced development among different regions. He said Guangdong's industries lacked competitive strength in the international market because they were short of 'innovation capability'.

Executive vice-governor Tang Bingquan told delegates from Zhongshan in a group discussion that despite the province's past achievements, it should not be complacent as it still faced various challenges to its development.

Mr Tang stressed that to sustain long-term growth, it was important for the province to develop foreign trade and business and tap foreign investment. To do so it should 'take advantage of being a neighbour of Hong Kong', he said.

He said Hong Kong, as an international financial, shipping and commercial centre, could help the province carry out various reforms.

'We can take advantage of Cepa [the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement] by bringing more financial enterprises to Guangdong. In the meantime, we should have more enterprises listing in Hong Kong,' he said.

He also stressed the need for Guangdong to continue opening up to the outside world and carrying out reform and 'thought liberation' - a euphemism for borrowing new ideas from the west - to enhance its competitiveness and attempts to become the mainland's foremost region.

Provincial congress deputies welcomed Mr Huang's report, saying the services sector could play a key role as Guangdong changed direction.

'I have asked my colleagues many times to 'learn from Hong Kong' when talking about co-operation in the services sector because Hong Kong is far ahead of us,' Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng said after the opening session.

He said Shenzhen would not only learn business ideas and practices from Hong Kong's leading services industries but also attract more service industry talent from Hong Kong in the future.

Zhang Jieming, head of the Guangzhou municipal government's finance department, said that, in contrast to previous work reports, this year's had spelled out the need to develop the services sector in more concrete terms.

He also noted the shift in Guangdong's economic development. 'In the past we mainly relied on industrial development, but now our focus is on the services sector as it offers more room for development,' he said.

Big number

Guangdong governor Huang Huahua has set the province's 2012 GDP target at 4.5 trillion yuan

This represents an average annual increase of 9%