The following is the full text of a broadcast on TV and radio by the Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, about his Policy Address today (October 10):
My fellow citizens,
Earlier today, I presented my fifth Policy Address.
In the face of a rapid external economic downturn and the need for Hong Kong to undergo economic restructuring, there is a sense of anxiety in our community of which I am acutely aware. To help relieve the hardship faced by the public, the Government has decided to implement three measures.
First, we will create over 30,000 new employment opportunities in the near future by speeding up implementation of public works and enhancing public services.
Second, we will reduce rates payment by a total of $5 billion next year. About 840,000 ratepayers will not have to pay any rates. The rest will enjoy a reduction of $2,000.
And third, the tax-deduction ceiling for home loan interest will be raised from $100,000 to $150,000.
To facilitate Hong Kong's long term development, we will invest heavily in education.
Education is at the very top of our policy agenda. Indeed, whatever financial constraints there may be, the SAR Government will steadfastly increase its investment in education. We want to achieve three targets :
First, raise the general standards of primary and secondary students through current education reforms.
Second, increase to 60% the proportion of young people who have the opportunity to undergo post-secondary education. We will improve the interface between secondary and tertiary education, and reform the academic structure of our institutions in order to nurture more outstanding post-secondary graduates.
Third, continue to promote life-long learning and develop this into a trend for others to follow. The Government will set aside $5 billion for encouraging Hong Kong people to pursue life-long learning.
For our long term development, the SAR Government will continue to invest heavily in infrastructure. The Government, together with the two railway corporations, will invest a total sum of $600 billion in infrastructure in the next decade and beyond. This very significant investment will increase employment opportunities.
Enhancing co-operation with the Pearl River Delta is of particular importance. Over the past two decades, Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta have complemented each other, and together developed into a highly productive economic region. With a population of 40 million and many affluent consumers in a number of cities, the Pearl River Delta is an enormously attractive market. By strengthening economic co-operation between Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, we will consolidate Hong Kong's position as an international centre for trade, finance, transport and logistics, as well as a premier tourist destination.
The Government will continue to improve the business environment. To enhance our competitiveness, we will take action to attract talents, capital and cargo flow to facilitate Hong Kong's economic development. The Government will implement the following initiatives.
First, efforts will be stepped up to support small and medium enterprises, with $1.9 billion being used to set up funds to provide credit guarantees and to help them to develop new markets.
Second, the Government will invest $2 billion to construct a new exhibition centre at Chek Lap Kok.
Third, we will set up a new Steering Committee on Logistics Development to speed up the development of the logistics industry in Hong Kong.
Fourth, a $100 million fund will be established to help enhance the standard of our professional services and to help them to develop other market opportunities.
And fifth, following consultations with the relevant Mainland authorities, we have reached agreement on relaxing the restrictions on visits by Mainlanders to Hong Kong. This will include abolition of the quota system for the Hong Kong Group Tour Scheme with effect from January 2002.
Apart from promoting economic growth, we are also concerned about social development. We will provide a grant of $300 million to establish a new fund aimed at promoting mutual support and grassroot community work in areas such as families and youths.
In the face of economic restructuring, the SAR Government has to be more responsive in meeting expectations of the public. One of the measures being considered is the introduction of an "Accountability System" for principal officials in the not too distant future. The intention is to ensure that public policies can better meet the expectations of the public and to enhance the overall effectiveness of our administration.
Hong Kong is facing a difficult time. However, we should have confidence in our future. Hong Kong is endowed with many advantages - both natural advantages and those which have been established through strenuous efforts in the past. We also enjoy the firm support of the Central Government. I firmly believe that with the joint efforts of the SAR Government and the community, coupled with the intelligence, determination and adaptability of Hong Kong people, we can overcome all difficulties as we forge ahead towards a bright future.
End/Wednesday, October 10, 2001