The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, has today (January 13) announced a broad range of initiatives in the 2016 Policy Address to develop the economy, support innovation and technology, enhance education and improve health care.
"This year marks the initiation of the National 13th Five-Year Plan, the beginning of the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the kick-off of various innovation and technology initiatives," Mr Leung said.
"It is also a year of opportunities significant for the future of Hong Kong.
"Together, we will strive for a better living environment for the people of Hong Kong. We will give our young people more career choices and more chances for upward mobility.
"Together, we will chalk up even greater achievements for Hong Kong."
On developing the economy, Mr Leung said Hong Kong would make the most of its advantages under "one country, two systems" to pursue opportunities under the National 13th Five-Year Plan and the Mainland's Belt and Road Initiative.
The Chief Executive will chair a high-level steering committee responsible for formulating strategies and policies for Hong Kong's participation in the Belt and Road, while a Belt and Road Office would be set up to co-ordinate efforts between government departments and other organisations such as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Hong Kong Tourism Board. It will also liaise with the central ministries and authorities at provincial and municipal levels, as well as various sectors, professional bodies and community organisations in Hong Kong.
Mr Leung said the Government would promote the development of financial services, transportation services and logistics industry, trade and professional services and tourism to move up the value chain.
He said Hong Kong would consolidate and expand its role as an international financial centre, including infrastructure financing and risk management, and deepen Renminbi-related financial services and products.
Other priority areas are arbitration and dispute resolution, insurance and re-insurance, corporate treasury functions, and education and cultural exchanges.
To deepen engagement within the country, six additional liaison offices will be established on the Mainland, while an Immigration Division will be added to the Shanghai Economic and Trade Office and dedicated staff deployed to handle cultural matters in the Beijing Office.
Mr Leung said that Hong Kong will pursue free-trade agreements, investment promotion and protection agreements, avoidance of double-taxation agreements and air services agreements with major trading partners along the Belt and Road.
In addition, he said, Hong Kong would step up its engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The negotiations with the 10 member states of ASEAN on a free-trade agreement are expected to be concluded this year and an economic and trade office (ETO) opened this year in Indonesia. A new ETO will also be opened in Korea to enhance co-operation.
Innovation and technology will receive a big boost, with nearly $5 billion in funding for a variety of initiatives, including:
* $2 billion for the new Innovation and Technology Bureau to facilitate the commercialisation of research and encourage University Grants Committee-funded institutions to carry out more mid-stream applied research projects;
* $2 billion for an Innovation and Technology Venture Fund;
* $500 million to establish an Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living;
* $200 million for Cyberport to invest in information and communication technology start-ups; and
* Over $100 million a year in support of collaborative research projects by Hong Kong and Mainland institutions.
On education, Mr Leung announced a free, quality kindergarten-education policy from the 2017/18 school year.
Funding would be supplied to eligible, local non-profit kindergartens to provide a three-year quality half-day service for all eligible children. It is estimated that 70 to 80 per cent of the places in half-day kindergartens will become free places.
Other initiatives would be introduced to support the professional development of the curriculum and the kindergarten teaching profession.
The Government will set aside $800 million for a Gifted Education Fund, earmark a site for a Vocational Training Council campus, and regularise funding for 1,000 additional teaching posts currently covered by grants.
Quotas will be increased for youth internships on the Mainland.
The Police will step up the Junior Police Call and youth work and set up a Junior Police Call Permanent Activity Centre and Integrated Youth Training Camp at Pat Heung.
In health care, Mr Leung said the Government would work with the Hospital Authority (HA) to implement a $200 billion, 10-year development plan.
The HA would provide about 230 additional beds in 2016 and open the Tin Shui Wai Hospital in 2016 and the Children's Hospital in 2017.
The hospital development plan for the coming decade also includes the addition of some 5,000 public hospital beds and more than 90 new operating theatres.
The Government has proposed a $10 billion endowment to the HA to enhance clinical public-private partnership programmes and develop new clinical public-private partnership initiatives.
An extra $1.1 billion over three years would also be allocated to implement recommendations of the Steering Committee on Review of the Hospital Authority.
Mr Leung also said a pilot scheme would be implemented to provide teenage girls from eligible low-income families with a free cervical cancer vaccine.
Other highlights of the Policy Address include:
* Pushing ahead with a wide range of measures to boost housing supply, and proceeding at full steam with new development areas (NDAs) and extension of new towns, including Kwu Tung North, Fanling North NDAs, Tung Chung New Town Extension, Hung Shui Kiu NDA and Yuen Long South Development;
* $400 million for the CreateSmart Initiative to develop the creative industries and, in particular, nurture start-ups and talent;
* Free entry to permanent exhibitions of selected Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) museums;
* Angling centres at LCSD venues on the harbourfront;
* Earmarking additional resources to implement a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Hong Kong;
* $300 million for an Arts Development matching-grants scheme; and
* Creation of a Commissioner for Sports to oversee sports policy in the city. The post will be taken up by a Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs.
Ends/Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:08