In the past year, despite uncertainties and challenges due to various geopolitical issues such as the tension on Korean Peninsula and pending Brexit process, the global economy achieved moderate growth thanks to improving output value of global trade and the industry as well as rising business and consumer sentiments. The economy of mainland China developed stably amid upgrade and transformation of the economic structure, shifting its focus from quantity development to quality development, to the benefit of the country's long-term development. Catching the tailwind of these factors, the overall economy of Hong Kong and Macau outperformed the expectation, and the Group's business operations in these two regions achieved satisfactory results in line with the expectation.
Looking ahead to 2018, while the global economy is expected to continue the steady and relatively rapid growth of last year, it will face some challenges, including more frequent rate hikes of the United States, the revival of trade protectionism, the volatility of the global financial market, and geopolitical risks. With their highly open economies, Hong Kong and Macau will inevitably be affected by these factors. However, the economies of both regions are currently in a good shape, underpinned by development of their pillar industries. The number of visiting tourists continues to rise, boosting business activities in the tourist industry while bringing momentum and vitality to the peripheral industries. With unemployment rate maintained at a low level, citizens enjoy steady income and the consumer confidence improves. Meanwhile, the economy of mainland China is undergoing structural upgrade and transformation to progressively reform itself to achieve the strategic goals of the state. Future economic development of the country is expected to be geared towards high quality and sustainability. Hong Kong and Macau have long been included in the state's overall development plan. The recently published report to the 19th CPC National Congress and the government work report specifically set forth the positioning of Hong Kong and Macau in the national development plan, laying a foundation for the two regions to participate in such national development strategies as the "One Belt, One Road" initiative and the construction of the "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area".
Of these national development strategies, we believe the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area will have significant impacts on the development of Hong Kong and Macau. The construction of the Greater Bay Area will tightly connect the nine cities in the Bay Area, especially the two special administration regions. Under the arrangement of "One Country, Two Systems", they will be able to develop in separate yet complementary directions, each focusing on its own strengths and together achieving multi-focus development, improving the allocation and utilization of resources in the Greater Bay areas, thereby resolving the "bottle neck" issues facing the regions in their development. Hong Kong and Macau will enjoy new development opportunities presented by the construction of the Greater Bay Area.
The Group is optimistic about the economic development of Hong Kong and Macau. We will enhance our resource allocation by leveraging the Group's robust financial position and the satisfactory performance of our core businesses to expand our business and strengthen the Group's asset portfolio. We will hold ourselves accountable to shareholders and stakeholders and adopt a prudent philosophy when making investment decisions, as we believe that rigorous financial planning and management is the cornerstone that supports the Group in its combat against various changes and challenges in the market.
Apart from striving to achieve reasonable returns for shareholders and stakeholders, we are also committed to serving the society and performing our obligations as a corporate citizen. At the beginning of 2018, the Group was honoured as a "Caring Company" by the Hong Kong Council of Social Services for ten consecutive years and was named "Business for Sustainability" for the first time. In addition, we were granted the "Hong Kong Corporate Citizenship" logo by Hong Kong Productivity Council for the fifth time and were certified as "Hong Kong Green Organisations" by the Environmental Protection Department of Hong Kong for the first time. These awards were not only recognition of our passion and endeavor over the years to perform our obligations as a corporate citizen, but also immense encouragement and support to our team. In future, we will continue to contribute resources to the sustainable development of the society.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep thanks to the management and all staff for their contributions indifferent aspects to the Group in the past, and I would also like to express my greatest gratitude to our shareholders, customers, business partners and stakeholders for their long-lasting support and trust. In the coming year, we will strive to explore opportunities and expand businesses proactively and steadily, so as to create better prospects for the Group.
TSANG CHIU MO SAMUEL
28 March 2018