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FS' speech at HKU seminar with graduate students on the 2010-11 Budget (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the opening speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at a seminar with staff and students of the University of Hong Kong on the 2010-11 Budget held at the university campus today (March 1):

Professor Lui, K C (Kwok), Professors, fellow students (I always feel like a student when I am talking in an august environment, like the one that we are in today.), ladies and gentlemen, and of course, the forever present and omnipresent media,

     Good afternoon.

     I am delighted to join you for this gathering. I am looking forward to our discussion and to hearing your views.

     To get the ball rolling, I would like to set out my thinking behind some of my fiscal deliberations.

     You will agree that, I hope you agree that, we are at the beginning of a turnaround from the global financial crisis. Hong Kong is one of the fortunate economies that are staging an early and strong recovery. This is good news for us. However, uncertainties and risks remain, not only in the other economies around the world that are still encountering difficulties, including some of our major trading partners, but also among those of us who seem to be in the process of recovery, if the other economies were to suffer a double dip. It is important for us to keep an eye out for the pitfalls ahead while we set about a strategy for recovery.

     While the Hong Kong economy is forging ahead with many sectors already enjoying the low bearing fruits of the recovery, many people in our community have yet to benefit from the process. There are mainly people who are still out of work, low-income families and the elderly who are also facing additional pressure from rising prices, particularly food prices from the Mainland. They need our help at this time.

     Against this background, I have prepared the Budget based on a three-fold theme: "consolidating recovery, developing the economy and building a caring society".

     Let me highlight some of the main points of the Budget.

     First, we have a number of proposals designed to relieve pressure on low-income families, including support in paying rates and public housing rent. There are additional allowances for CSSA recipients, disabled people and the elderly. I have also proposed reductions to salaries tax and provided funds to help students in need of financial assistance.

     The relief measures will cost the Government some $20 billion. These are short-term, one-off measures to help tide the community through the economic recovery.

     I firmly believe that the best way to generate wealth in our community in the longer-term is to sharpen our city's overall competitiveness. A strong economy will help create jobs and boost confidence.

     That is why I have proposed a number of initiatives that will help develop our soft and hard infrastructure, promote the six priority industries and improve our living environment.

     Another important feature of the Budget is to address concerns of asset-price bubbles, particularly in the property sector. This has been brought about by a large inflow of funds during the global financial crisis combined with sustained low interest rates.

     To stabilise property prices, I have proposed increasing the supply of flats for sale and land for property development. The MTR and the Urban Renewal Authority will seek to increase the supply of their residential units. The Housing Authority will seek to revitalise the secondary market for Home Ownership Scheme flats. And, we shall put up several urban residential sites for auction if they have not been triggered by the usual mechanism.

     To curb excessive speculation in luxury properties, I have proposed raising stamp duty on transactions of properties valued at more than $20 million.

     These measures will help maintain a stable and healthy property market.

     Ladies and gentlemen, these are some of the key points of my Budget. Let me hear your views.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Monday, March 1, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:09


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