Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (11)

Heritage Conservation

92. Heritage conservation is essential to the quality of the city.  With the support of new heritage conservation policies and additional resources, much has been done in the past 20 months.  The Development Bureau has just announced the results of the first batch of historic buildings under the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme.  I hope that the Legislative Council will give early funding approval for these six revitalisation projects, which are conducive to the development of local arts and culture, tourism, education, the creative economy and Chinese medicine.

93. The capital cost of these projects is approximately $500 million, which is about half of the fund earmarked for the scheme.  To enable more historic buildings owned by the Government to benefit from the scheme, I propose to earmark an additional sum under the Capital Works Reserve Fund to bring the total amount of uncommitted funds under the scheme back to $1 billion so that applications can be invited for the second batch of historic buildings in the first half of this year as scheduled.  To encourage private owners to conserve historic buildings graded by the Antiquities Advisory Board, and given that the Board will soon complete the grading of some 1,440 historic buildings, I have increased the provision for maintenance grants and raised the ceiling of financial support for each application.  

Beautifying the Harbourfront

94. Creating continuous waterfront promenades on both sides of the Victoria Harbour and improving connectivity between the harbourfront and inland areas is an on-going effort.  The Legislative Council has approved the creation of a directorate post to head a task group on harbourfront enhancement, and has set up a sub-committee under the Panel on Development.  Next year, we will start work on temporary waterfront promenades in North Point and Kwun Tong.  We will also provide additional funding to facilitate the work of the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee to conduct research and organise public participation activities, with a view to developing harbourfront sites into prime leisure spots.

Building a Greener City

95. We are committed to promoting greening and have been maximising greening opportunities in public works projects.  In the coming year, the Greening Master Plan projects undertaken by the Civil Engineering and Development Department will cover the whole of Hong Kong Island and urban Kowloon.  In addition, we will provide landscaping features on 500 old slopes and carry out greening work on the rooftops of 40 Government buildings through additional funding for minor works.  We will also subsidise schools and other non-profit-making organisations through the Environment and Conservation Fund to carry out greening work.  Since our capital injection into the Fund last year, it has provided funding of $29 million to support greening works for about 100 buildings.  We will continue to streamline the vetting process and encourage district and eligible organisations to make good use of the Fund to improve the environment.

Arts, Culture and Sports

96. Arts, culture and sports can promote social development and enhance people's quality of life.  The Legislative Council has approved funding of $150 million for the Arts and Sport Development Fund recently to strengthen the related work.

Promoting Sports

97. Hong Kong will host the 2009 East Asian Games.  Hong Kong people will have the opportunity to witness first-hand the competitions among elite athletes from East Asia.  We hope that more local athletes can join this major sports event to gain experience in international competitions and win medals for Hong Kong.  To this end, I will allocate about $20 million to strengthen our athletes' preparation.

98. To further support community sports, we have earmarked $50 million in the Sir David Trench Fund for Recreation to finance new facilities and equipment for district sports associations and National Sports Associations in the next three to four years.

Arts and Culture

99. Regarding arts and culture, the West Kowloon Cultural District will provide an environment conducive to the development of Hong Kong as an international art and cultural metropolis, and will enrich our cultural life.  It will also bring economic benefits to Hong Kong, promoting creative industries and attracting visitors.

100. We are committed to bring art into the community.  The Home Affairs Bureau and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council will provide local artists and art bodies with direct funding of about $330 million next year.  We will also increase the recurrent subvention for the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts to more than $193 million to strengthen training programmes.

101. Cantonese opera is a gem of Lingnan culture.  Hong Kong has preserved the essence of Cantonese opera which should be developed further.  The Legislative Council has approved funding of about $186 million for the conversion of the Yau Ma Tei Theatre and the Red Brick Building into a Xiqu Activity Centre to provide performing and practising venues for small-scale Cantonese opera performances and budding artists.  We have also injected $20 million into the Cantonese Opera Development Fund and will invest about $33 million in 2009-10 to further support the research and promotion of Cantonese opera.

102. To provide more opportunity for people to use library facilities and to encourage more reading, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will standardise the opening days of their 33 major and district libraries to seven days a week from April 1, with opening hours increased by about 10 hours to 71 hours a week.

103. The Legislative Council has approved funding of $93 million to upgrade and enhance the Multimedia Information Systems of public libraries.  This will help meet future demand and provide more effective and advanced library information services to the community.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:22