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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (10)

Implementing Development Projects, Investing in the Future

Pushing Ahead Public Works Projects

82. A key strategy of this Government is to promote economic growth through infrastructural development.  Over the past 20 months, we have made good progress in implementing the Chief Executive's initiative of undertaking ten major infrastructure projects to enhance our overall competitiveness and in carrying out other major projects.  We estimate that capital works expenditure for 2009-10 will be as high as $39.3 billion.

Promoting Private Development Projects

83. During the past 10 years, works completed by the public sector only accounted for about 30 to 50 per cent of overall construction output.  Government infrastructure projects cannot support all economic activities and provide all employment opportunities in the construction industry.  To better co-ordinate development projects involving policies handled by different government departments, we will soon set up a Development Opportunities Office under the Development Bureau to provide an effective platform where bureaux and departments can jointly assess the benefits brought by proposed projects and provide co-ordinated enquiry services.  I would like to stress that this mechanism will not replace the existing statutory procedures, public consultation and regulation.  To engage the public at the earliest stage on these private development projects, we will re-organise the existing Land and Building Advisory Committee by appointing new members from the community, together with representatives of various trade bodies, to contribute their ideas to the work of the Office.

Supporting Community Infrastructure Projects

84. The Development Opportunities Office will also provide one-stop consultation and co-ordination services for community infrastructure projects.  After the second meeting of the Task Force on Economic Challenges, the Chief Executive announced that government departments should provide more active support to charitable and voluntary organisations considering extension or relocation plans.  We have subsequently received about ten community building proposals.  Depending on the specific needs of individual projects, we will consider the provision of non-recurrent funding.

Land Supply

85. The 2008-09 Application List provided the market with a variety of commercial/residential sites and "hotel use only" sites.  Because of the economic downturn, there were few applications to trigger sites for sale for the whole year.  So far we have only sold one small residential site.  Although this has affected our land revenue for the year, it proves that a market-driven land sale mechanism can better reflect and respond to economic changes.  We have reviewed the development parameters of certain sites to better respond to the aspirations of the community for lower development density.  We will adhere to the principles of certainty, clarity and consistency in preparing the Application List for the next year.  We will extend the pilot measures for "hotel use only" sites for another year.  At the same time, the Lands Department will continue to explore practicable ways to streamline the lease modification process and update premium assessment in light of market conditions.

Building a Caring Community

Building the Community, Improving Quality of Life

86. During the Budget consultation, a number of people said that when addressing the challenges ahead, we must at the same time strive to strengthen our community and improve the quality of life.  I share this view.  This is indeed our commitment to the community.  As citizens of Hong Kong, we take pride in our sophisticated infrastructure and good city management, and how we have together built Hong Kong into a liveable, cultured and vibrant city.

A City of Quality

87. Developing Hong Kong into a city of quality is our pledge to the citizens.  We will continue to invest in the hardware of urban construction, and also constantly upgrade the software such as urban management and heritage conservation.  It is our common wish to make Hong Kong a better place to live in.  We will revitalise historic buildings, build a greener city of low-energy consumption, and make our harbourfront more enjoyable.

88. These efforts to build a city of quality must be rooted in the community.  We will continue to allocate $600 million annually to all 18 District Councils to organise community involvement programmes suited to each district's characteristics and to carry out district minor works that meet district needs.

Urban Renewal

89. The renewal of old areas aims to improve the living environment, re-structure land use for providing community facilities, and meet future development needs.  Any redevelopment project is bound to face challenges in such areas as property acquisition and compensation, and the preservation of the characteristics and community networks of the old areas.  Therefore, redevelopment cannot, and should not, be the only or the mainstream option.  In last year's Budget, I encouraged various sectors of the community to participate in the review of the Urban Renewal Strategy.  We recently completed Stage 1 of the review.  In the remaining stages, we will continue to explore with the public the future direction for urban renewal in Hong Kong with an open mind.

Building Maintenance

90. To address the problem of dilapidated buildings, we have, together with the Urban Renewal Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society, adopted various measures over the years to help owners to meet their obligations to maintain their buildings.  In my last Budget, I earmarked $1 billion to implement the "Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners", providing a maximum subsidy of $40,000 to each eligible elderly owner.  So far about 2,000 elderly people have benefited from the Scheme.

91. We are determined to tackle the problem of dilapidated buildings.  We will introduce new legislation on mandatory building and window inspection by the end of this year, and implement a new minor works control system that facilitates building maintenance next year.  As regards the special operation to remove 5,000 abandoned signboards announced by the Chief Executive after the meeting of the Task Force on Economic Challenges, the Buildings Department will commence the operation with the support of District Councils and Fire Safety Ambassadors in the districts from March 1.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:16


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