Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah dismissed remarks by tycoon Li Ka-shing that the city's competitiveness is slipping, saying it is trying to develop higher- value-added services and move into new sectors.
It came as Li, Asia's richest man, sought to clarify comments he made after a post-earnings briefing on Friday.
Yesterday, Li said it was unfair to assume his remarks about the prevalence of "incapable people" in the city were directed at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his government.
Li said on Friday that the gross domestic product of the city and Singapore were at similar levels in 1997, but that Hong Kong's per capita GDP was now about one-third lower than Singapore's.
But Tsang was adamant yesterday that the city's economy was still growing. "We're marching towards a higher-value-added level and we're doing that in different sectors," he said, without elaborating.
"At the same time, we're looking into new sectors that we would excel at, and we're doing very well."
He did not specify which sectors were being considered.
However, Tsang conceded there were still problems which needed to be resolved - including manpower and land supply - to improve the city's long-term development prospects.
Asked about Hong Kong's competiveness on Friday, Li said: "Capable people are not coming forward, but incapable people are fighting for the jobs."
Some interpreted that as a reference to Leung and his team as the "incapable people".
In response, Tsang said yesterday: "I don't see any situation like this [in the government]. It depends on the point of view."
Seeking to clarify his remarks yesterday, Li said: "It's unfair to Leung [to assume Li was referring to him]. He's doing his best too."
He added that incompetent people "complain but don't do anything helpful".
"There are many people like this in my company too," he said.
Li would not be drawn on his choice of a capable candidate to lead Hong Kong, but said there were many talented people in the city who could lead it to "a brighter future" - and give young Hongkongers a clearer direction for their careers.
He reiterated that mainland travellers were important to the city, and that the mainland was providing support to Hong Kong in many areas.
Li also noted that some media had been confused about his comments that foreign magazines, which he did not name, had underestimated his wealth by more than 40 per cent because they did not know he was majority owner of Canada's Husky Energy. This was the case over a decade ago, he said, but estimates of his wealth today were accurate.Topics: Li Ka-shing More on this: