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CE tackles most pressing issues in maiden Policy Address

     The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, in his maiden Policy Address today (January 16), laid out plans to tackle the key issues of housing and land supply, poverty, ageing population and the environment. Mr Leung said that to tackle these problems and overcome the challenges ahead, Hong Kong had to achieve sustained economic growth.

     In his Policy Address entitled "Seek Change, Maintain Stability, Serve the People with Pragmatism", Mr Leung appealed to the community to work together in overcoming the challenges ahead.

     "As long as we keep focused on development, avoid feuds and strive for results, Hong Kong will be able to sustain its economic growth," Mr Leung said.

     "With sustained economic growth, we will be able to properly address our housing, poverty, ageing population and environmental problems."

     He also warned that the deep-seated problems in Hong Kong could not be resolved overnight.

     "But we need to grasp the nettle and take the first step to deal with them," he said.

     In his first Policy Address since taking office on July 1, 2012, Mr Leung highlighted his principle of "appropriately proactive" governance.

     "The Government should refrain from intervention when the market is functioning efficiently, except to ensure a level playing field," Mr Leung said.

     "But in cases of market failure, the Government must take appropriate action to address the problem."

     The Chief Executive proposed a range of initiatives on housing and land, the environment, poverty and coping with an ageing population. They include:

* A housing production target of 100 000 public rental housing (PRH) units in five years starting from 2018 as well as proposals to expand plot ratios and expedite building of PRH units;

* Rezoning appropriate Government, Institution or Community sites and Green Belt areas for residential use and building up an abundant land reserve to flexibly meet housing demand in the short, medium and long terms;

* Commission on Poverty (CoP) to set a poverty line with task forces under the CoP working on different fronts, namely, supporting the underprivileged with special needs; promoting education, employment and training; and engaging the community and fostering cross-sectoral collaboration among the Government, businesses and other sectors;

* Launching the Pilot Scheme on Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly and providing over 1 700 new subsidised places from now to 2014-15;

* Providing 130 additional convalescent beds by the Hospital Authority and strengthening the infirmary care services for public hospital patients;

* Providing more places for day training and residential care services for persons with disabilities, increasing job attachment allowance and wage subsidy under the On the Job Training Programme for People with Disabilities and the Sunnyway ˇV On the Job Training Programme for Young People with Disabilities, enhancing the point-to-point rehabus service and studying the proposal of allowing people with loss of one limb to apply for the Disability Allowance; and

* Setting aside $10 billion in subsidies to phase out old diesel commercial vehicles. Other environmental protection measures include injecting $5 billion into the Environment and Conservation Fund, rationalising the bus routes, reducing vessel emission, and promoting electric vehicles and the recycling industry.

     The Chief Executive said, "Sustained economic growth is a prerequisite for us to tackle housing, poverty, ageing population, and environmental problems. Promoting economic development is therefore the primary goal of the Government."  

     The Chief Executive said he would soon announce the establishment of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) which will focus on efforts to broaden Hong Kong's economic base, work on the overall strategy and policy to enhance our long-term development, and identify industries which present opportunities for Hong Kong's further economic growth.

     Under the EDC, Working Groups on Transportation, Convention and Exhibition Industries and Tourism, Manufacturing Industries, Innovative Technology and Cultural and Creative Industries, and Professional Services will be set up to make concrete recommendations to the Government.

     Meanwhile, the Chief Executive will establish the Financial Services Development Council to provide a high-level and effective platform for stakeholders to explore ways to complement the internationalisation of the country's financial market.

     "It will also help facilitate the further development of Hong Kong's financial services industry,ˇ¨ Mr Leung added.

     The Chief Executive said it was important for Hong Kong to take full advantage of the two main economic trends affecting Asia, specifically the rapid economic development of Mainland China and the shifting global economic swing towards Asia.

     He said the National 12th Five-Year Plan adopted by the Central Government in 2011 would provide huge opportunities for Hong Kong's development as an international centre for finance, trade and shipping.

     Mr Leung said he would focus efforts on maximising the benefits from Hong Kong's unique free trade pact with the Mainland, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA).

     "We have reached consensus with the Ministry of Commerce on enhancing the existing mechanism for the implementation of CEPA by setting up an additional joint working group," Mr Leung said.

     "The joint working group will provide targeted assistance to sectors which have encountered relatively more entry barriers, according to the feedback from the sectors concerned, with emphasis on assisting small and medium enterprises."

     The Chief Executive has proposed to the Central People's Government (CPG) to extend the "early and pilot implementation" approach beyond Guangdong Province to other provinces and municipalities in the Pan-Pearl River Delta region. The proposal received positive feedback from the CPG and the Government would take it forward with the relevant CPG ministries and provinces as soon as possible.

     To take advantage of the rapid economic development in the Mainland's central region, Mr Leung said the Government was aiming to set up a Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Wuhan in central Hubei Province. This is in addition to four Government offices already operating in the Mainland.

     "We are also looking into the feasibility of setting up liaison offices in various other cities," Mr Leung said.

     To promote business links with overseas partners, the Chief Executive said the Government would pursue more Free Trade Agreements and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements with different countries. He also said that Hong Kong would continue to press its case for joining the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.

     Mr Leung highlighted a range of areas for the development of various local industries.

     On financial services, he said Hong Kong had great potential to capitalise on its advantages as an offshore centre for business using the Mainland currency, the Renminbi. Mr Leung also said Hong Kong is set to play a crucial role in the internationalisation of the Mainland's commodity futures market, given the Mainlandˇ¦s huge demand for commodities and the gradual internationalisation of its commodity futures trade.

     He also identified business and professional services, maritime services, innovation and technology as well as testing and certification industries as areas where Hong Kong had great potential for development.

     On education, the Chief Executive said the Government would examine extending free education to 15 years from the current 12 years, raise the quality of kindergarten education and provide more support for children with special education needs.

     With regard to pregnant Mainland women whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents and who wish to give birth in Hong Kong, Mr Leung said he would maintain the "zero delivery quota" policy and, at the same time, the Government would seek to tackle the root of the problem by legal means.

     "We must carefully deal with the impact that some 200 000 babies born to non-local parents may have on Hong Kong," he said.

     The Chief Executive underscored his government's commitment to upholding human rights, the rule of law, clean government, freedom and democracy, tolerance for different stances and views, and respect for press freedom.

     "The Government is steadfastly committed to upholding these core values," Mr Leung said.

     "Looking forward, my team and I will continue to take on the challenges ahead in a pragmatic and proactive manner.

     "We will work with the Legislative Council and all Hong Kong people with one heart and one vision.

     "Together, we shall build a more prosperous Hong Kong."

Ends/Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Issued at HKT 13:17


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