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We need ACTION!

by Miriam Lau
Ms Miriam Lau Kin Yee is a Solicitor and Notary Public, and China-appointed Testing Officer. She is a member of the Legislative Council, representing the Transport Functional Constituency and affiliated with the Liberal Party. Ms Lau chairs the Legco Panel on Transport; is a member of the Hong Kong Port and Maritime Board; Chairman of the Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority; and recently appointed Shepherd of the Hong Kong Logistics Development Council, S-logistics Project Group.

The note of caution sounded in 2000 has turned out to be not unjustified. The downturn of Hong Kong's economy, caused essentially by a global recession resulting in the softening of Hong Kong's major markets and compounded by the tragic 911 incident, is reflected in the 2001 freight throughput figures at the Hong Kong port.

Cargo handled by our port up to August last year recorded a slight decline compared to the same period the year before. Airfreight dropped more substantially, with the decline rate reaching double digits in certain months. These figures do not yet reflect the trauma of 911, and the full impact will probably not manifest until the early part of this year. The pinch is felt, however, not only by shippers but also by the freight and transport industry that serves them.

China's accession to the WTO in December last year brings with it vast trade opportunities for many. The slight downturn in 2001 is a minor setback but it should not deter Hong Kong from moving on. It actually gives us the opportunity to once again reflect on our strengths and weaknesses. It also serves to impress on us the urgent need to be more competitive in light of the emergence of neighbouring ports and changing global trends.

For many years, I have advocated the need to promote logistics in Hong Kong so as to improve our competitiveness. I am pleased to note that the Government has now taken logistics on board and is giving it the priority that it deserves. The Steering Committee on Logistics Development (LOGSCOM), under the chairmanship of the Financial Secretary set up in November last year, shows the Government's commitment in giving this initiative the proper policy steer. The Hong Kong Logistics Development Council (LOGSCOUNCIL) set up in December last year and chaired by the Secretary for Economic Services, provides the forum and impetus for public and private sector participation in the promotion of this cause.

The LOGSCOUNCIL oversees five project groups, all of which are very important to the advancement of logistics: the P-logistics Project Group looks into physical and regulatory infrastracture, the E-logistics Project Group looks into cyber and IT infrastructure, the H-logistics Project Group looks into human resources infrastructure, the M-logistics Project Group looks into marketing and promotion, and the S-logistics Project Group looks into support for the SMEs. Everybody within the industry or with connections to the industry--whether big or small, or whether they are providers of hardware or software--are all expected to participate and contribute.

LOGSCOUNCIL witnesses an unprecedented effort in bringing together the public sector and all relevant disciplines in the private sector for the promotion of a cause that is so vital to the economy of Hong Kong, a cause that will greatly improve Hong Kong's efficiency and competitiveness, a cause that will ensure that goods handled by Hong Kong will be dealt with in the most time-efficient and cost-efficient manner, a cause that will create business opportunities and job opportunities, a cause that will ensure our importance within the Pearl River Delta as the preferred international and regional transportation and logistics hub in Asia.

I wish the LOGSCOUNCIL every success.

There has been much talk about logistics for a long time now. The McClier Consultancy Study has proposed a Master Plan as to how we should take the matter forward and the LOGSCOUNCIL is tasked with coming up with an operational plan. The industry is convinced that we should push ahead with logistics; so does the community. Clearly, the will is there and the enthusiasm is likewise present. What we now need is ACTION!