Today, on 18th January, the Chief Executive of the HKSAR, C Y Leung, delivered his Policy Address for the year 2017-18, which is titled “Make Best Use of Opportunities, Develop the Economy, Improve People's Livelihood, Build an Inclusive Society”. Here are some major highlights:
Trade- The Government’s preparations to open an Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Seoul are underway. ETOs will be set up in five other countries - India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. The Government has also been expanding the network of offices in the Mainland and plan to set up liaison units in Tianjin, Zhejiang, Guangxi and Shaanxi by the middle of this year.
Tourism - This year the Government will invite a tender for the Kai Tak Tourism Node in the vicinity of the cruise terminal to develop a world-class tourist attraction.
Tax - The Government plans to introduce a bill into the LegCo this year to amend the Inland Revenue Ordinance to offer tax concession so as to attract companies to develop aircraft leasing business in Hong Kong.
Labor -The Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) rate will be increased with effect from 1 May this year. This is the third time for the current-term Government to increase the SMW rate.
Visa - The Government will consider relaxing visa requirements for nationals of countries along the Belt and Road for employment, study and visit. The government has reached a consensus with Belarus on mutual visa exemption and are planning to relax visa requirements for Cambodian nationals.
Exchange programs - New initiatives include increasing the quotas to 5, 600 for students’ Mainland exchange programs along the Silk Road this year, and encouraging, through the Quality Education Fund, students to engage in exchange activities in the Mainland and countries along the Belt and Road.
Scholarships - The Government sets up the Hong Kong Scholarship for “Belt and Road” Students (Indonesia) this academic year. In the next academic year, there will be two “Belt and Road” scholarships funded by private donations for students from Malaysia and Thailand.
Langue education - The Government will invite SCOLAR to consider implementing the following two programmes: a grant for primary schools to enrich the language environment on campus and refine the school-based English Language curriculum; and a vocational English programme for senior secondary students so as to enhance their English proficiency.
STEM education - An additional one-off subsidy of $200,000 will be provided to each public sector secondary school to facilitate the implementation of school-based programs related to STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Post-secondary education - To help self-financing post-secondary institutions tap more funding sources, the Government will launch the seventh Matching Grant Scheme, providing a maximum grant of $500 million for application by qualified local self-financing degree awarding institutions. The Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence Scheme will continue to support up to 100 outstanding local students in their pursuit of studies in world renowned universities outside Hong Kong in the 2017/18 academic year.
Continuing education - An additional $1.5 billion will be injected into the Continuing Education Fund to encourage the public to pursue continuing education.
InnoCell - The Government supports the construction by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC) of an InnoCell adjacent to the Science Park. InnoCell will provide residential units for leasing to staff of the incubatees and start-ups in the Science Park. It will also be open to scientific research personnel from outside Hong Kong who work for other companies in the park.
Inno Space - The Government will establish an Inno Space with the Hong Kong Productivity Council to facilitate the sharing of practical technologies and skills to promote the translation of innovative and technological ideas into industrial designs or products, and support a start-up culture and re-industrialization.
Re-industrialization - The Government is preparing to build a Data Technology Hub and an Advanced Manufacturing Center in the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate, to be completed in three and five years respectively.
Smart City Development
CSDI - The Government is striving to promote the establishment of a Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI) to provide an information infrastructure to share spatial data, supporting various smart city applications, and support the smart city blueprint of the ITB.
Data Centre - The Government will continue to implement incentive measures to encourage the private owners of eligible industrial buildings to convert them into data centres. The procedures will be further streamlined for issuing waivers for such purpose.
Kowloon East - The Government is using Kowloon East as a smart city pilot area, leveraging people-centric information and communications technology solutions for the sharing of data to improve the use of resources and enhance the management of pedestrian and vehicular traffic flows.
Fund - The Government will launch a $500 million Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living by the middle of this year to subsidies innovation and technology projects which will bring more convenient, more comfortable and safer living to the public, or those addressing the needs of specific community groups.
Land supply in Kowloon East continues to increase. The commercial floor area in the area now amounts to over 2.3 million square meters, and is expected to further increase by about 4.7 million square meters.
The Government will establish a preparatory committee to study the ambit and modus operandi of a conservation fund, as well as the legislation and resources required for setting up such a fund. The fund will also provide an integrated and dedicated mechanism and resources for implementing policy initiatives relating to the conservation of biodiversity in the rural areas.
Development of Lantau
The blueprint for Lantau’s development and conservation will be published in the first half of this year. The direction will be “development for the north, conservation for the south”. North Lantau will be for economic and housing developments while Northeast Lantau will be developed into an area for leisure, entertainment and tourism through reclamation in Sunny Bay, complemented by Hong Kong Disneyland. Most of the remaining areas in Lantau will be used for conservation, leisure, cultural and eco-tourism purposes.
The AA’s SKYCITY development project occupies over 25 hectares, and will become a dedicated area for hotel, retail, dining and entertainment.
The boundary crossing facilities island of the HZMB can provide a floor area of 500, 000 square meters for economic uses.
Energy - The Government will gradually replace most of the electricity generated from coal-fired plants with cleaner energy by 2030. When negotiating the new Scheme of Control Agreements with the power companies, the Government will study how to further promote energy saving and renewable energy (RE) generation. The Government will earmark at least $500 million to gradually achieve the targets of energy saving and will actively encourage private building owners to make use of various tax concessions, loan schemes and funding schemes to procure energy saving installations.
Biodiversity - The Government will implement the first Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong and strengthen conservation of biodiversity by conducting studies, enhancing public awareness, and promoting the mainstreaming of biodiversity issues and values.
Waste Management -
The Government plans to introduce the bill for implementing waste charging in the current legislative year. Meanwhile, the new construction waste charges will take effect in April this year. The Government is also preparing the legislation required to mandate the use of a Global Positioning System on construction waste collection vehicles to combat illegal depositing of construction waste.
Phase 1 of the Organic Waste Treatment Facilities (OWTF) will be completed this year to further waste-to-energy efforts.
The Government will implement a pilot project to source separate food waste from wet markets and cooked food centres managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, as well as wet markets and shopping malls managed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority, for delivery to the upcoming OWTF for treatment.
The Government will provide tertiary institutions and primary and secondary schools with suitable support for on-site treatment of food waste, with a view to enhancing student and teacher awareness of the “food wise” culture.
Roads - The Government will construct the Central Kowloon Route, which will link Yau Ma Tei with Kowloon Bay and the Kai Tak Development Area and reduce the journey time from 30 minutes to 5 minutes during rush hours. Other large-scale road projects, such as the Tuen Mun- Chek Lap Kok Link, the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link, the Tseung Kwan O-Lam Tin Tunnel, the widening of Fanling Highway and the Hiram’s Highway improvement works, are being taken forward at full speed.
“Walk in HK”- The Government will encourage people to walk more and rely less on motorized transport. We will consolidate past efforts to foster a pedestrian-friendly environment and promote “Walk in HK”. Two areas is selected for pilot study to test innovative measures for a comfortable walking environment, and to explore relaxing the requirements for adding covers to public walkways as stipulated in the Transport Planning and Design Manual, etc.
A “bicycle-friendly” environment - Measures will include providing comprehensive cycle track networks in NDAs under planning, including Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long South, to facilitate commuting by bicycles within the districts, as well as extending the cycle track network within the open spaces of the Kai Tak Development Area (KTDA) to about 13 kilometres to link up major attractions.
The Mandatory Provident Fund System
The Government proposes to progressively abolish the “offsetting” of severance payments (SP) or long service payments (LSP) with MPF contributions. The Government will discuss in detail with the business and labor sectors, MPF trustees and relevant advisory bodies in the coming three months, and finalist our proposal by the end of June.
The next objective of the MPF Schemes Authority is to put in place an eMPF, a centralized electronic platform, to facilitate the standardization, streamlining and automation of the MPF scheme administration, thereby further reducing costs and paving the way for “full portability” so employees will have full control over the investment strategy.
The Government will collaborate with the film industry to run training programs regularly with a total of 200 places to provide practical training or internship opportunities for front-line talent in the production and post-production sectors of the film industry. Moreover, the Government will support 10 practitioners in the post-production sector in each of the next three years to further their studies or undertake internships overseas.
A total of $20 billion will be spent in the coming five years to launch 26 projects to develop new or improve existing sports and recreation facilities amounting to a total of 54.. The Government will conduct technical feasibility study for another 15 sports and recreation facility projects to prepare for their implementation. Besides, pre-construction works for the Kai Tak Sports Park, the largest sports project to be built in Hong Kong, are close to completion.