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Author: Don Obrien

Hong Kong leader sets goals on housing, finance, climate in speech


(Reuters) -Here are highlights of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s annual policy address on Wednesday, the last in her current term, mapping out priorities for the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

POLITICS

– Hong Kong has got back on the right track of “one country, two systems” and governance has returned to normal under the protection of the National Security Law and the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”.

– The city government will take forward proactively the enactment of local legislation to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law in Hong Kong.

– Government will strengthen national security education and raise law-abiding and national security awareness of Hong Kong people, in particular the youth, through different activities and approaches.

– Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), as a public service broadcaster, should play an active role in promoting the Constitution and the Basic Law, and engendering a sense of citizenship and national identity.

JUDICIARY

– Government will introduce corresponding amendments to the Regional Flag and Regional Emblem Ordinance in a view to fulfilling the constitutional responsibility of Hong Kong.

– Will strengthen rule of law. A rule of law database with objective data will be set up to assist in assessing the rule of law and facilitate research and capacity building.

HOUSING

– Government will develop a new metropolitan area in northern Hong Kong for people to live, work and travel.

– With an area of 300 square kilometres, the proposed metropolis will cover the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Boundary Control Points Economic Belt, as well as the deeper hinterlands.

– The Northern Metropolis will be developed as an international I&T hub and the Harbour Metropolis will support Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.

– A number of development projects planned or under planning in the Northern Metropolis are estimated to provide about 350,000 residential units.

– Additional land of about 600 hectares could be developed within the Northern Metropolis for residential and industrial use, with an estimated provision of 165,000 to 186,000 residential units.

– Upon the full development of the entire Northern Metropolis, a total of 905,000 to 926,000 residential units, will be available to accommodate a population of about 2.5 million.

– The total number of jobs in the Metropolis will increase substantially from 116,000 at present to about 650,000, including 150,000 I&T-related jobs.

– Government revised the public/private housing split from 60:40 to 70:30 in 2018 to further step up its policy efforts in building more public housing units and identifying land

– Government has identified about 350 hectares of land for 330,000 public housing units for the coming 10-year period from fiscal 2022-23 to 2031-32, to meet the estimated public housing demand of 301,000 units in the period.

– Public housing production in the five-year tenure of this government will reach 96,500 units, an increase of 30,000 units compared with the previous five-year period.

– On private housing, including railway property development, the government will secure about 170 hectares of land in the coming 10 years, and make available to the market sites for building about 100,000 units through land sales or putting up railway property developments for tender.

– Government aims to increase supply of transitional housing and proposes to increase the overall supply of transitional housing to 20,000 units in the coming few years by providing 5,000 additional units, and increase the amount of funding under the relevant funding scheme to HK$11.6 billion.

– Large-scale projects and projects under planning are expected to provide about 400,000 to 500,000 public and private housing units in the medium to long term.

– Together with the 165,000 to 186,000 units that can be built on newly identified land under the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy, the supply of housing units can go up to 565,000 to 686,000 units in the 10 to 15 years after 2031-32.

ECONOMY

– To enhance Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.

– Government will step up efforts to support the Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited (HKEX) to enhance the listing regime, and to establish a listing regime for special purpose acquisition companies in Hong Kong.

– To expand further the channels for the two-way flow of cross- boundary RMB funds and developing offshore RMB products and tools.

– Supporting the HKEX to promote co-operation with the Guangzhou Futures Exchange in financial product development related to the areas of carbon emission trading, strengthening Hong Kong as a regional green and sustainable finance hub.

– Promoting cross-border financial technologies (Fintech) to facilitate financial institutions and information and technology companies from Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to test cross-border Fintech applications.

– Government seeks to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and will seek to create more favourable conditions for Hong Kong enterprises to enter the mainland market under the framework of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA).

– The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is developing Commercial Data Interchange, which is expected to begin operating next year, enabling small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to gain access to more convenient financing services.

– Proposes to set up an InnoLife Healthtech Hub with 16 life and health-related laboratories in the InnoHK research clusters and the eight State Key Laboratories in life and health disciplines as the basis, to focus on related research work.

– In technology, government will make relevant investments by partnering with suitable private equity firms, focusing on assisting fast-growing I&T enterprises including start-ups.

– Says construction of Three Runway System to raise capacity is a strategic investment to enhance competitiveness of Hong Kong International Airport. The commissioning of the Third Runway is targeted for 2022 with full completion scheduled for 2024.

– Says the government will continue to invest in infrastructure and the annual capital works expenditure is expected to exceed HK$100 billion ($12.8 billion) in coming years.

BUILDING LIVEABLE CITY

– Government will announce a Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050 shortly, setting out measures on reducing carbon emissions to reach carbon neutrality with an interim decarbonisation targets of reduce carbon emissions by 50% before 2035, as compared with the 2005 level.

– In order to achieve net-zero carbon emissions for electricity generation before 2050, the government set a goal to reduce the electricity consumption of commercial buildings by 30% to 40% and residential buildings by 20% to 30% from the 2015 level by 2050.

– Government has put forward measures with an aim to cease new registration of fuel-propelled and hybrid private cars in 2035 or earlier and set targets of installing charging facilities.

– Government says to promote the development of electric and other new energy public transport and commercial vehicles, including trials of hydrogen fuel cell buses, with a view to a roadmap and timetable for the use of new energy public transport in 2025.

– Government will devote about HK$240 billion for various measures on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

LIVELIHOODS

– Recurrent expenditure on social welfare has significantly increased from HK$65.3 billion in 2017-18 to HK$105.7 billion in 2021-22, an increase of 62% over four years.

– The size of the poor population in 2019 decreased from the pre-intervention 1.49 million to 0.64 million, showing the safety net had achieved income redistribution by providing support for grassroots and lifting them out of poverty.

(Reporting by Donny KwokEditing by Robert Birsel)



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