The chief executive Carrie Lam delivered the final annual Policy Address of her current five-year-term yesterday (6/10). This year’s topic is ‘Building a bright future together’, relatively similar to last year’s ‘Strive ahead with renewed perseverance’.
In the beginning of her speech, Lam emphasized the importance of staying true to the principles of ‘One Country Two System’. To ensure China’s sovereign and economic interest, it is important to safeguard national security. Lam then explained that her Policy Address seeks to restore Hong Kong’s constitutional order; consolidate and enhance Hong Kong’s strengths and diversify its economic development; and build on past efforts to continue improving people’s well-being, with a view to resolving immediate and long-term social problems.
Upholding ‘One Country, Two Systems’
Lam stated that she would cooperate with the National Security Adviser and the Office for Safeguarding National Security to make the best use of the powers conferred by the National Security Law upon the HKSAR government. To enhance Hong Kong people’s understanding of national security and law-abiding awareness, the government would conduct large-scale public education in the annual Constitution Day and National Security Education Day. She also planed to extend the swearing of allegiance to more public officers. Regarding electoral arrangements, Lam announced that Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau would introduce bills to enhance electoral systems and arrangement in due course.
New Impetus to the Economy
Lam aimed to improve the listing regime to maintain financial stability in Hong Kong. She would expand offshore RMB business to deepen mutual access between the Mainland and Hong Kong financial markets. She also revealed that an amendment bill would soon be introduced into the LegCo regarding tax concessions. This is to further promote the development of Private Equity Funds. The government would launch an ‘iAM Smart’ platform in December to offer public services such as renewal and electronic submission of tax returns. She hoped to encourage the commercial sector to participate and help build a smart city blueprint for Hong Kong.
Lam also announced the creation of a Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Cooperation Zone. It would develop the ecological chain of the innovation and technology industry in Hong Kong and Shenzhen to offer great employment and start-up business opportunities for young people in Hong Kong. She promised to build a complete innovation and technology ecosystem by providing more land and infrastructure and support the re-industrialization and university research. Furthermore, the government would continue to invest in infrastructure with an estimated annual expenditure of over $100 billion on average in the next few years.
Housing and Land
In terms of housing supply, the government hopes to increase supply of subsidized housing by ensuring the timely delivery of 330000 public housing units in the coming 10 years. While in the short term, the government have other plans to help citizens waiting in line for public rental housing. The government would increase provision of transitional housing units from 15000 to 20000, provide time-limited cash allowance for eligible waitlisted applicants of public rental housing, and implement tenancy control for sub-divided units.
In terms of land supply, the government proposed the development of the Northwest New Territories and New Territories North. This would be done by expediting the implementation of the Northern Link railway project. The government has already identified 90 hectares of land along the Northern Link suitable for housing sites. The government would also study on the potential for residential development of the reclaimed land at Lung Kwu Tan and the coastal area at Tuen Mun West, with have a total of 440 hectares of land. At the same time. Lam also reaffirmed her commitment on the ‘Lantau Tomorrow Vision’ for land creation. She pledged to strive for the early commencement of relevant studies in hope of obtaining an approval for funding.
Building a Liveable City
Lam suggested the implementation of the ‘Invigorating Island South’ initiative to transform the Southern District into a place full of vibrancy, vigor and velocity. Her initiative includes plans such as the rebirth of Ocean Park, revitalizing the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, and enhancing the cultural and leisure facilities in the vicinity of Aberdeen and Wong Chuk Hang. She emphasized on the significance of urban renewal in the giving the city a brand new look. She declared that the Urban Renewal Authority would enhance old districts like Kowloon City, To Kwa Wan, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok with the aim of creating a more people-oriented community and bringing greater benefits to residents. To achieve the goal, the government is also reviewing the compulsory sale application threshold of old and dilapidated buildings.
For a greener city, the Environment Bureau planned to launch a long-term strategy blueprint to strive towards carbon neutrality. It includes measures such as exploring different types of zero-carbon energy and decarbonization technology. The government would also work on waste management. Lam expects to see the operation of paper pulping facilities by 2024 which allows for a higher efficiency in land use and greater reduction in energy consumption.
Continuously improving people’s livelihood
Lam stated that the government is committed to building a caring community which looks after the underprivileged. The government have launched a Job Creation Scheme with 30000 time-limited job opportunities to help restore the economy from the global epidemic. To reduce the public burden on transport expenses during the epidemic, the government have earlier relaxed the monthly public transport expenses threshold under the Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme from $400 to $200 from July to December this year. Lam has decided to extend this special measure for an extra six months until 30 June 2022. The government also agreed to regularize the short-term food assistance service projects into a permanent one.
In terms of public health, the first District Health Centre have started operating since last year. Nine more sites for District health Centers have been confirmed to provide primary healthcare for the citizens. As for the elderly group, the government would expand the scope of the current Elderly Dental Assistance Program to include more subsidized items such as the removal of bridges or crowns. Citizens above the age of 75 and have joined the program for at least five years are now eligible to receive dental services a second time.
Nurture Talent and Youth Development
The government wished to enhance students’ understanding of the history and culture of China. The Education Bureau would provide opportunities for students to join study tours that integrate with their curriculum. It would also encourage primary and secondary students to learn more about the essence of Chinese culture for nurturing their moral character and cultural identity. To facilitate the mass use of e-learning facilities due to the epidemic, the Bureau will provide $2 billion in the Quality Education Fund.
Aiming at graduating students, the government will launch the ‘Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme’. This is to encourage enterprises with operation in both Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area to recruit local university graduates. The scheme will provide 2000 places for young people to develop their careers. The government would also provide $100 million to support youth start-ups for those who want to start their own businesses.