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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (10)

Community Building

Arts, Culture and Sports

120. As a cosmopolitan city, apart from increasing investment in education, Hong Kong must strive to enhance the quality of culture, arts and sports in the community.  The Policy Address has announced that the Yau Ma Tei Theatre will be converted into a Cantonese opera centre to promote and preserve this local art.  We have earmarked about $120 million for this project.  The Home Affairs Bureau will also seek Legislative Council approval for a $21.6 billion upfront endowment for the West Kowloon Cultural District development.  We will take forward these major cultural and arts infrastructure projects.

121. The Beijing Olympic Games to be held this year will draw the world's attention to China.  To highlight our commitment in supporting, promoting and participating in the Olympic Games, the Legislative Council has approved funding of $150 million to organise Olympic-related cultural, sports, community, celebration and promotional activities.  The Policy Address has also announced that the recreational facilities managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will be open for public use free of charge from July to September this year.  We estimate that receipts from these facilities will decrease by about $100 million.

Knowing the Basic Law

122. As the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Basic Law has laid a solid foundation for our stability and prosperity.  In order to raise public awareness of the Basic Law and the "One Country, Two Systems" concept, we will devote more resources to further promote the Basic Law throughout the community.  We have earmarked more than $20 million for this purpose.

Enhancing Community Participation

123. With the District Councils playing a bigger role in district administration, we will increase funding for the 18 District Councils to $600 million a year to carry out various community involvement activities and district minor works.  We will also provide additional manpower resources for District Offices to support more effective community participation in district administration.

Environmental Improvement

124. A good environment is vital for a quality life.  This can protect the public's health and is conducive to attracting talents from around the world, thereby enhancing the overall competitiveness of Hong Kong.  In recent years, the Government has implemented a number of environmental protection measures.  Members of the public, by participation in these efforts, have been leading a greener lifestyle.  The Government is ready to explore measures to improve our environment.  I will provide the resources required for implementing effective measures.

Cleaner Diesel

125. From December 1, 2007, we have offered a concessionary duty rate of $0.56 per litre for Euro V diesel for two years.  The rate is 50 per cent lower than that for ultra low sulphur diesel.  This concession will cost the Government about $1.56 billion a year if calculated according to the normal duty rate of diesel.  I believe that this concession is well worthwhile to help improve Hong Kong's air quality.

Environment-friendly Commercial Vehicles

126. Last April we offered a reduction in the First Registration Tax for environment-friendly private cars to encourage people to choose these type of cars.  I propose to introduce a similar concession for environment-friendly commercial vehicles to further reduce air pollution.  Depending on the types of vehicles, a reduction of 30, 50 or 100 per cent in the First Registration Tax will be offered to buyers of commercial vehicles meeting the Euro V emissions standards.  Details of the proposal will be announced by the Environmental Protection Department later.  If 15 per cent of the commercial vehicles applying for first registration are converted to Euro V vehicles, it is estimated that the proposal will cost the Government $26 million a year.

Environment-friendly Facilities

127. I propose to provide a 100 per cent profits tax deduction for capital expenditure on environment-friendly machinery and equipment in the first year of purchase to encourage the business community to use such equipment.  For environment-friendly installations mainly ancillary to buildings, I propose that the depreciation period be shortened from the usual 25 years to five years.  The Inland Revenue Department and the Environmental Protection Department will announce the list of environment-friendly facilities that would qualify for the deduction.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:07


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