More than three months after taking office, Chief Executive John Lee delivered his very first Policy Address in the Legislative Council on Wednesday morning.
Lee addressed various issues including housing, education and youth development. Here are the key takeaways of the four issues on which HongKongers express the most concern.
Woo Talents and Enterprises
The Chief Executive unveiled a slew of measures to tackle brain drain and lure corporates, as he said the city must be proactive and aggressive in “competing for enterprises” and “competing for talents”.
A stamp duty refund for foreign homebuyers is one of his proposals for wooing talent.
Talents who purchase a residential property in Hong Kong and become permanent residents after staying in the city for seven years will be eligible to apply for a rebate of the Buyer’s Stamp Duty and the New Residential Stamp Duty.
However, this policy only applies to those who bought a property from today and thereafter.
Besides, the government will establish the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (OASES) later this year, which targets to attract enterprises from the Mainland by offering them one-stop services, including visa application.
The top Talent Pass Scheme will also be launched. People who are graduated from the world’s top 100 universities with at least three-years of working experience over the past five years, or earn more than $2.5 million per year, can apply for a two-year pass.
Moreover, the office decided to suspend the annual quota for the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) in the coming two years, to attract more world-class talents to Hong Kong.
Unchanged target: Increase Housing Supply
The Chief announced plans to build 30,000 transitional flats in the coming five years under the new Light Public Housing (LPH) scheme, to accelerate the overall public housing production by about 50%.
Lee aimed to shorten the public housing waiting time from six years to four years and a half by 2026 to 2027.
Besides, a minimum size for newly built flats is set up. All subsidized sale flats completed from 2026 to 2027 onward will not be less than 280 square feet.
For private housing supply, the government will prepare land which provides no less than 72,000 residential units in the next five years.
Reform of Health Care System
The government purposed to revamp the health care system by shifting the emphasis from treatment-oriented to prevention-focused.
A three-year Chronic Disease Co-Care Pilot Scheme will be introduced next year. District Health Cares will identify people who are at high risk of hypertension or diabetes mellitus and refer them to the private sector for further assessment or treatment, which the government will subsidize half of the fees.
Lee also proposed a three-year pilot scheme to enhance the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme. Under the new scheme, spouses are allowed to share the voucher and the annual voucher will raise from $2,000 to $2500. An additional $500 will be allotted to the elderly’s account automatically once they claim at least $1,000 for designated primary health services.
To cope with the rising demand for Chinese Medicine (CM), the annual quota of subsidized CM outpatient services will increase by one-third, from 600,000 to 800,000.
Relaxation of Anti-Pandemic Restrictions
In the past months, voices are calling for the Chief to provide a roadmap to normalcy, by axing COVID restrictions including the “0+3” arrangement.
However, unexpectedly, Lee covered the anti-epidemic issue in just two pages, without mentioning the “0+0” or other elimination of anti-pandemic restrictions.
Lee said the government will not “lie down” nor backtrack on efforts to combat the virus. His administration will strike a balance between the risk of the pandemic and economic needs.
Meanwhile, the government has been negotiating with Mainland authorities on resuming cross-border travel. Lee said the first target is to implement the “reverse quarantine” in Hong Kong to avoid the possibility of spilling the epidemic to the Mainland.
Feature image by Gigi Tang.