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CE's "Letter to Hong Kong" (English only)

     Following is the "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong this morning (January 27):

Dear fellow Hong Kong people,

     Last year was the first time in the history of the HKSAR that we had a change of government and a change of Legislative Council (LegCo) in the same year. To have time to also consult newly elected members of LegCo, my first Policy Address was delivered not in October, as has been the recent norm, but last Wednesday.

     Since taking office on July 1 last year, I have introduced timely and targeted measures as and when they were ready. These measures include a Buyer's Stamp Duty to manage demand for residential properties and an Old Age Living Allowance that will benefit 400,000 elderly people in need of enhanced assistance. Going forward, we will not wait for the next Policy Address, or indeed the next Budget Speech to be delivered by the Financial Secretary in a few weeks time, to introduce new initiatives.

     Although the date of the Policy Address has changed this time, I have followed post-Policy Address tradition by taking part in various rounds of media interviews and phone-in programmes. This was a valuable opportunity for people from all walks of life to share their opinions openly and directly, and also for me and my colleagues to listen to the public and explain clearly our ideas and vision.

     I particularly enjoyed taking part in radio phone-in programmes, including here on RTHK, where I fielded listeners' questions on everything from housing and pollution to animal police and the status of adopted Hong Kong children.

     As a blueprint for the next four and a half years, my Policy Address covers various pressing as well as long-range issues in Hong Kong, with particular focus on five policy areas, namely economic development, housing, poverty, ageing, and the environment. These five areas were also the most frequently raised issues during my many consultation sessions in preparing the Policy Address.

     In each policy area, I have set out long-term strategies as well as concrete proposals so we can tackle the challenges ahead effectively.

     For example, we will significantly increase the short, medium and long-term supply of both public and private housing, and at the same time maintain a stable property market. We have pledged to set a poverty line as an unprecedented move to alleviate poverty. We have also taken bold steps to improve the environment.

     The housing and land initiatives in the Policy Address are practical and realistic. The production targets will be met. The ongoing efforts will increase supply. Since last Wednesday, we have successfully increased the plot ratio of four residential sites. One of these sites will provide Home Ownership Scheme units. In March, another site will be presented to the Town Planning Board for rezoning to public rental housing. If approved by the Board, this will add to the present target of 75,000 units in the next five years.

     The single largest financial commitment in my Policy Address concerns the environment. I have set aside $10 billion as subsidies to phase out heavily polluting diesel commercial vehicles, which is the most effective way to reduce roadside pollution. We expect that more than 80,000 vehicles will be phased out under this programme. We are also stepping up our efforts to reduce emissions from ocean-going vessels. Further, we shall work with the Guangdong Provincial Government to explore the feasibility of requiring ocean-going vessels to switch to low-sulphur diesel while berthing in Pearl River Delta ports.

     I have also injected $5 billion into the Environment and Conservation Fund to support community-led green initiatives.

     Economic development is important to Hong Kong because we will only be able to properly address our housing, poverty, ageing population and environmental issues with economic growth.

     In my Policy Address I have set out the Government's strategies to support Hong Kong businesses. One way is to better utilise the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or CEPA. CEPA offers Hong Kong firms and professionals a head start in growing their business in the Mainland. However, certain provisions under CEPA have yet to be fully utilised. I have announced that a high-level joint working group with the Ministry of Commerce will be set up to improve CEPA implementation for all stakeholders.

     Meanwhile, we propose to set up another Economic and Trade Office in Wuhan to take advantage of the rapid economic development in the Mainland's central region. I have also requested our Mainland offices to broaden their functions to provide better assistance to Hong Kong people and enterprises in the Mainland.

     But before making decisions and taking action, my government wants to know what exactly businesses need. So, we have also moved quickly to establish the Economic Development Commission and the Financial Services Development Council, which will advise the government on the best ways forward.

     As announced in the Policy Address, the Government will re-organise the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council and rename it the Consultative Committee on Economic and Trade Co-operation between Hong Kong and the Mainland. One of the main functions of the Committee is to provide feedback from Hong Kong businesses to the Hong Kong SAR Government, so that we can effectively perform our G2G, or government to government, role properly - something I promised in my election campaign. This Committee will also cover the implementation of the National 12th Five-Year Plan and listen to industries' views about our aspirations for the 13th Five-Year Plan.

     I have asked members on these bodies to offer not just commentaries or analyses. I need recommendations from these business leaders to tell me exactly what they expect this government to do to make things happen. While the Policy Address has set out the broad objectives, I want the industry representatives in the working groups and sub-groups to take the lead in formulating policies.

     I have mentioned a few key things that Hong Kong can do to realise business potential offered by the Mainland, but we must not lose sight of our important relations with other economic partners. I look forward to promoting Hong Kong as the best place to do business during soon-to-be-announced official visits abroad.

     In the last 10 years, I took part in marketing Hong Kong-based professional services to the Mainland. I explored with the Central Authorities the possibility of allowing residents in the more affluent cities in the Mainland to come to Hong Kong as tourists without having to join tour groups. More than a few commentators were sceptical. Today, the Mainland is the biggest market for our professionals and the biggest source of tourism income. The sceptics were proven wrong. These two sectors of our economy, among others, have seized on the opportunities by working with the Government.

     I am sure there will be plenty more opportunities for all of us in the fast-approaching Year of the Snake. Festivities, especially Chinese New Year, are a time for all Hong Kong people to come together as one big family. Regardless of our background or ethnicity everyone, all 7 million of us, are part of the Hong Kong family, not just during Chinese New Year, but every day.

     On that note, I take this early opportunity to wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Snake. Kung Hei Fat Choy.

Ends/Sunday, January 27, 2013
Issued at HKT 09:00


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