Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam delivered her first Policy Address since assuming office on 1 July 2017. In the Policy Address, themed “We Connect for Hope and Happiness”, the Government, adopting new thinking and a new role, explained the philosophy of governance for various policies and put forward innovative measures with new perspectives to solve economic and livelihood issues of public concern.
Mrs Lam outlined her strategies to promote economic development, enhance people’s livelihoods and foster a more inclusive and harmonious society under “one country, two systems”.
She identified good governance as a top priority for her political team, saying that it is vital, whether in discharging the responsibilities of the Government as a ‘service provider’ or a ‘regulator’ but also as a ‘facilitator’ and a ‘promoter’. She added that the Government will take concrete actions to resolve problems for the people, following the principles of being “Innovative, Interactive and Collaborative”.
On developing and diversifying Hong Kong’s economy, Mrs Lam unveiled a raft of measures to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness, including:
* Slashing profits tax by half to 8.25% for the first HK$2 million of profits (current flat rate is 16.5%);
* 300% tax deduction for first HK$2 million R&D expenditure by companies, with a 200% deduction for remaining R&D investments;
* At least HK$10 billion in university research funding to further encourage private sector R&D investments;
* A HK$500 million “Technology Talent Scheme” to train and pool technology talent;
* Inject HK$3 billion into the Research Endowment Fund to provide scholarships for local students admitted to University Grants Committee-funded research postgraduate programmes;
* HK$2 billion to co-invest on a matching basis with VC funds invested in local tech startups;
* HK$700 million for Smart City initiatives, including “smart lampposts” and intelligent transport system;
* Demolish three government towers in Wan Chai to create 23,000 sq m of new exhibition and convention space for the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. In addition, a new convention centre will be built above the MTR Exhibition Station under construction in Wan Chai, adding a further 15,000 square metres of convention space;
* Diversify tourism sector by promoting cultural, heritage, green and creative tourism;
* Issue “green bonds” to encourage investment in green projects via HK capital markets;
* Continue to increase the supply of land for various uses. In the coming year, a number of commercial sites will be put up for sale, including sites at the Kai Tak Development Area, above the terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and at the new harbourfront in Central. These and other sites will add about 1.1 million square metres of floor area. In addition, a site of about 3.2 hectares in Tuen Mun Area 49 has been set aside for logistics use; and
* HK$1 billion to the CreateSmart Initiative to develop design and creative industries.
Mrs Lam said that Hong Kong would capitalise on the opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development.
She said the Government hopes to forge a comprehensive agreement with the National Development and Reform Commission by the end of this year, regarding Hong Kong’s participation in Belt and Road projects.
The Government has set a goal to double the Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product to about HK$45 billion a year (i.e. from 0.73 per cent to 1.5 per cent) by the end of the current Government’s five-year term of office.
Mrs Lam also emphasised the need to diversify Hong Kong industries, in which innovation and technology (I&T) has competitive advantages and development potential. She will personally chair an internal Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology to take forward the development of I&T in Hong Kong, and to steer collaboration and participation across bureaux and departments with effect from the most senior level. She will also ensure that the resources requirement will be met in a timely manner.
To improve the liveability of Hong Kong, Mrs Lam identified various initiatives, including launching Operation Building Bright 2.0 with funding of around HK$3 billion to subsidise residents in maintaining their buildings, and earmarking about HK$2 billion to subsidise eligible owners of old composite buildings to adopt fire safety enhancement measures.
Mrs Lam also announced the setting up of a Countryside Conservation Office to co-ordinate conservation projects that promote sustainable development of remote countryside areas. She added that HK$1 billion has been set aside to take forward relevant conservation efforts and revitalisation works.
In conclusion, Mrs Lam said, “My vision is for a Hong Kong of hope and happiness – a city we are proud to call our home. I see a vibrant international metropolis that is just, civilised, safe, affluent, enjoys the rule of law, compassionate and well-governed. As long as we can connect and achieve consensus, and capitalise on our strengths, the future of Hong Kong is bright.”
The complete Policy Address can be found at www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2017/eng/index.html
Summary of the Policy address is made by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London