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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (5)

Improving our Business Environment

Removing Barriers

36. Since I became Financial Secretary, I have been pushing ahead with the work of removing barriers so as to improve our business environment.  In the past year, the Business Facilitation Advisory Committee has put forward a number of recommendations to streamline procedures in respect of the regulation of the construction and real estate sectors, food business, retail trade and entertainment industry.  To improve our licensing system further, we have introduced the "Be the Smart Regulator" programme, which includes setting up Business Liaison Groups for more business sectors, developing more comprehensive performance pledges and guides to licence applications, and promoting the wider use of electronic services.

Fair Competition

37. Fair competition is crucial to the economic development of Hong Kong.  The Competition Policy Review Committee has finished its task and recommended that a cross-sectoral competition law be introduced.  We have recently completed consultations on the subject, and are now considering the views received.

Promoting Environmental Protection

38. Not only can environmental protection enhance our citizens' quality of life, but it also helps improve our business environment.  In last year's Policy Address, the Chief Executive proposed to provide an incentive for replacement of old diesel commercial vehicles with new models.  I have budgeted $3.2 billion for this purpose.  The Chief Executive also proposed to lower the first registration tax for environment-friendly vehicles.  This programme will be implemented on April 1.  As from today, information on the vehicle models covered by the programme can be found on the websites of the Environmental Protection Department and Transport Department.

39. To reduce waste and implement the "Polluter Pays" principle, the Environmental Protection Department is considering the introduction of producer-responsibility schemes for various products.  The Department has completed its study on the charging scheme for plastic shopping bags, and is shortly to put forward specific proposals.  It is expected that the relevant Bill will be introduced into this Council within the year.

Developing a Knowledge-based Economy

Pooling of Talent

40. Quality human capital is the most important element in developing a knowledge-based economy.  The Government has therefore been investing heavily in education to enhance the quality of teaching and nurture talent.  Our provision for education in 2007íV08 will be $50.1 billion, an increase of $2.2 billion over the current financial year, accounting for nearly a quarter of our total recurrent expenditure.

41. With a view to expanding our pool of talent, the Government will provide continuous support to local tertiary institutions in attracting more students from outside Hong Kong to study and, upon graduation, stay here to work.  In addition, we will continue to attract talent from around the world to pursue careers here through various talent admission schemes.  Last year, more than 27 000 professionals were admitted under these schemes, an increase of 57 per cent over 2003.

Technology and Creative Industries

42. To facilitate the development of a knowledge-based economy, we should make greater efforts to promote scientific and technological research.  I will invite the University Grants Committee to consider, in conjunction with the Research Grants Council, how best to encourage higher education institutions to conduct more quality research, including that into innovation and technology.  I also intend to relax the restrictions of the Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme and the University-Industry Collaboration Programme under the Innovation and Technology Fund, so as to provide further impetus to the development of applied scientific research.

43. In order to facilitate public access to the Internet, we will earmark $210 million over the next two years to provide WiFi networks in government venues for free use by our citizens.  WiFi networks will first be installed, within a year, in all public libraries, major cultural and recreational centres, community halls, large parks, and those government offices that are frequently visited by the public.

44. To promote the economic development of Hong Kong, the business sector must, through innovation and creativity, develop its own designs and brands in order to enhance competitiveness in high value-added industries.

45. The film industry is a major creative sector.  The Film Development Committee has submitted to the Government a report on the industry's development strategy.  One of its recommendations is the establishment of a new fund to help finance film production and overcome the shortage of talent.  I have earmarked $300 million for this purpose.  The Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology will consult the Film Development Council, which will shortly be established, on the detailed operation of the fund.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Issued at HKT 11:32


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