Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (13)

Building the Community

Building Safety

162. Since the launch of the Operation Building Bright in 2009, we have provided financial assistance to the owners of over 1 900 old buildings.  A large number of old buildings were repaired and nearly 16 000 employment opportunities created.

163. In the second round of Operation Building Bright, we received more than 500 applications involving over 800 buildings.  I propose to further allocate $1 billion for Operation Building Bright so that financial assistance will be made available to all eligible applicants.  This proposal will mark a successful conclusion to this campaign.  We forecast that the campaign will eventually provide financial assistance for the repair and maintenance of over 3 000 buildings aged 30 years or above and create more than 60 000 employment opportunities related to the construction industry.

Easing Traffic Congestion

164. Private cars account for over 60 per cent of the vehicle fleet in Hong Kong.  The number of vehicles in Hong Kong has grown continuously over the years.  The year-on-year increase of private cars in 2010 hit 5.4 per cent, a record high of more than a decade.  The number of private cars first registered in 2010 surged to more than 41 000.

165. It is obvious that the continuous growth in the number of private cars has adversely affected the traffic conditions on our roads.  Despite all the road improvement works to ease traffic congestion, average vehicle speeds on all strategic roads across the territory decreased by over five per cent in 2010.  Allowing the situation to deteriorate would make our roads even more congested.  We must take decisive measures to curb the growth of private cars.

166. I propose to increase the rate of each tax band for the First Registration Tax for private cars by about 15 per cent.  Details of the adjustments are set out in the supplement to the printed version of this Speech.  The First Registration Tax for other types of vehicles and the existing concession for electric vehicles and environment-friendly petrol private cars will remain unchanged.  The above adjustments will be gazetted and take immediate effect today.  The proposed measure is intended to relieve traffic congestion instead of raising tax revenue.

Heritage Conservation

167. We have been promoting the conservation of historic buildings through a diversified approach.  An example is the Revitalising Historic Buildings through Partnership Scheme in which historic buildings are conserved with government funding and adapted for re-use by non-profit making organisations.  This has brought renewed vigour and new attractions to the community.  In the past few years, I have allocated a total sum of $1.5 billion for the Scheme.  So far, as many as ten conservation projects of historic buildings have been implemented under this model, and the total capital works commitment has exceeded $1.2 billion.  I propose to earmark an additional $500 million to subsidise more revitalisation projects of this kind.

Art and Culture

168. Art and culture provides the basic nutrients for social development.  To support the development of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), we have earmarked more than $486 million for the five financial years from 2010-11 for art programme development, manpower training, art education and audience building.

169. We also injected $1.5 billion into the arts portion of the Arts and Sport Development Fund (ASDF) last July with a view to promoting the long-term development of local art and culture with the investment return of the ASDF.  A matching grant scheme will be launched to encourage private sector participation in providing a springboard for the development of promising local art groups.  The scheme will also support more quality art and cultural projects, thereby creating the brand identity of Hong Kong culture.  In 2011-12, we will allocate over $2.8 billion for the development of art and cultural software.

170. The WKCD Authority (the Authority) will work with the art and cultural sector, educational institutes and community groups to present a host of art and cultural events to the community.  The aim is to bring art to the public and enhance their appreciation of various art forms (including performing arts and visual culture) for audience building.  The Authority will also plan and support capacity building programmes to nurture artists and art administrators with a view to strengthening our arts team.

Sports Development

171. The Government has always attached great importance to sports development.  We have taken an active role in promoting "sport for all", developing elite sports and positioning Hong Kong as a leading location for international sports events.  The redevelopment of the Hong Kong Sports Institute (the Institute) at a cost of about $1.8 billion is proceeding according to schedule.  To tie in with the upgrading of its facilities, I propose to set up a $7 billion "Elite Athletes Development Fund".  The investment return of the Fund will replace the current mode of providing subvention to the Institute.  This will help make the Institute a world-class training centre, provide more comprehensive support to elite athletes, and strengthen our efforts to identify and train young athletes with potential.

172. Last July, we also injected $1.5 billion into the sports portion of the ASDF.  Its investment return is used to support various sports, in particular team sports, and to organise more community sports programmes to promote greater public participation in sport.  We will continue to build new district-based recreational and sports facilities and improve existing ones in the light of district demand.  We will also press ahead with the planning of the multi-purpose stadium complex at Kai Tak.

Social Enterprises

173. Since the launch of the Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership Programme in 2006, the HAD has approved a total of about $110 million to subsidise the establishment of over 100 social enterprises.  We have earmarked $150 million to keep rolling out the Programme over the next five years.  The maximum funding period is extended from two years to three years, and the eligibility requirements are relaxed on a pilot basis to cover non-profit making organisations which are not exempt from tax under the Inland Revenue Ordinance.  We will allocate additional resources to introduce an award scheme in an effort to foster a social enterprise spirit and nurture talent in this field.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:50