The rebound has been quicker than expected, while tourists from the delta are likely to spur recovery further After several days of meetings with a range of interest groups in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa gave the media its turn yesterday. And the focus of his message was: the economy is on the way back. In a meeting with senior reporters and editors, Mr Tung said economic data this month showed the economy had been picking up faster than expected since the depths of the Sars crisis. 'It demonstrates that we are going in the right direction and we are beginning to come out [from the bottom],' he said. Mr Tung's upbeat economic outlook, which comes ahead of the Hong Kong-Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in Hong Kong next week, also focused on integration in the Pearl River Delta. He said concrete progress would be made on the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge project in particular as the two sides forged closer co-ordination on major infrastructure projects, including container ports and highways. The chief executive cited growth figures in the previous quarters before the Sars outbreak in March to justify the government's strategy of focusing on four major sectors - finance, logistics, tourism and professional services. The third quarter of last year saw 3 per cent growth, followed by 5 per cent in the fourth quarter and 4.5 per cent in the first quarter this year. 'Unfortunately, we have to start from zero after Sars. But we are convinced our direction is correct,' he said. The short-term task was to boost employment through tourism, such as by accommodating more visitors from mainland cities. Mr Tung said that with the further opening up of the mainland economy, people must accept the need for Hong Kong to restructure its economy. 'We need to have new thinking and new methods to seize the opportunities,' he said. It was imperative for Hong Kong to clearly identify its role, position and strengths in the broader context of the delta region. 'We will discuss with Guangdong leaders how we can complement each other and avoid competition. We need to give full play to our respective strengths so that we can get the maximum economic benefits,' Mr Tung said. 'Our strengths lie with our service sector, professional services, finance and logistics. We will raise the overall competitiveness of the region if we are able to do well in those areas. Our direction is clear. We will make strenuous efforts to make progress. 'We hope people can see we are coming out from it [the economic downturn].' Asked if the economy had already rebounded, Mr Tung said: 'If you look at the economic data in the third and fourth weeks of July, they are much better than I had thought. After Sars, our economy has picked up quite well. 'I hope this is the case. We will have to see over a longer period of time.'