CE unveils major Policy Address initiatives to support the needy, youth and economic development

     The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, has today (January 15) unveiled major initiatives in his annual Policy Address to support those in need, nurture the next generation and underpin Hong Kong's economic future.

     Mr Leung's second Policy Address, under the theme "Support the Needy, Let Youth Flourish, Unleash Hong Kong's Potential", said this year's policy agenda included more than 160 new and over 430 ongoing initiatives.
     "In line with our strategies to promote economic development and improve people's livelihood, these initiatives embody the principle of my Manifesto that the Government must be appropriately proactive and seek change while maintaining overall stability," Mr Leung said.

     The Chief Executive said that implementing these initiatives would require a substantial increase in recurrent expenditure.

     "It demonstrates the determination of the current-term Government to tackle the root of the entrenched problems in our society," he said.

     "In particular, it shows our commitment to alleviating poverty, caring for the elderly, supporting the disadvantaged, nurturing the youth and enhancing the quality of public healthcare services."

     New initiatives include:

* A Low-income Working Family Allowance to benefit more than 200 000 low-income families with 710 000 members at a cost of about $3 billion annually;

* A Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework to support ethnic minority students in primary and secondary school;

* Developing an East Lantau Metropolis, a core business district in addition to Central and Kowloon East;

* Doubling the elderly health care voucher amount to $2,000;

* Significant enhancements to the support services for the disabled;

* A Task Force on Vocational Education to draw up a strategy to promote vocational education in the community; and

* A housing target of 470 000 units over the next decade, with public housing accounting for 60 per cent.

     "The initiatives that I put forward today cover a wide range of areas and benefit various groups," Mr Leung said.

     The Chief Executive said the Low-income Working Family Allowance would be based on criteria that encouraged recipients to remain employed and supported the upward mobility of young family members.

     Apart from proposing to double the elderly health care voucher amount to $2,000, the Government will explore the feasibility of extending the Old Age Living Allowance to Guangdong, having regard to the operating experience gained from the implementation of the Guangdong Scheme.

     The scheme allowing the elderly and eligible people with disabilities to travel at a concessionary fare of $2 would be extended to eligible children with disabilities under the age of 12. The Government will also explore with the trade ways to resolve technical and operational problems to extend the scheme to green minibuses in phases from the first quarter of 2015.

     Mr Leung said the Government would inject $10 billion into the Lotteries Fund to support social welfare organisations in better using their land through in-situ expansion or redevelopment under the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses.

     Ethnic minority students who have difficulty learning Chinese will benefit from a new initiative to implement a Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework starting from the 2014/15 school year. Annual funding of approximately $200 million will be provided to enhance the school support.

     To ease the financial burden of kindergarten education on parents, the Government will increase the voucher value of the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme by $2,500 per year for two consecutive years in 2014/15 and 2015/16.

     Mr Leung said the Government would also provide more opportunities for higher education, including more senior-year undergraduate places, subsidies, scholarships for outstanding students as well as those who excel in sport, the arts and community service, and enhanced support for and promotion of vocational education.

     On housing, the Chief Executive announced a new target of providing a total of 470 000 units in the coming 10 years, with public housing accounting for 60 per cent.

     "To achieve this target, we have to ensure that there will be adequate supply of land, funding for the Housing Authority and manpower resources in the construction sector," said Mr Leung.

     "This will be a tall order for both the Government and the community.

     "The Government has identified sufficient land for 179 000 PRH (public rental housing) units and 17 000 HOS (Home Ownership Scheme) units as pledged. To meet the new housing supply target, the Government aims to provide an average of about 20 000 PRH units and about 8 000 HOS units per year."

     Mr Leung pledged to set up a Lantau Development Advisory Committee to prepare Lantau Island for the economic and social impact of major infrastructure projects in the area, including the mega Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link, which are due for completion in the near future.

     "It (Lantau Island) will link Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and western PRD (Pearl River Delta), and become the converging point of traffic from Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao," Mr Leung said.

     "This will bring fundamental change to Lantau's functions and development potential."

     He said the Government would explore ways to further develop the eastern waters off Lantau with a view to developing an East Lantau Metropolis for accommodating new population. It will become a new core business district for Hong Kong.

     The Government will also study the possibility of building more hotels and leisure tourism facilities on Lantau Island as well as the 130-hectare artificial island site of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities.

     To capitalise on Hong Kong's close economic links with the Mainland of China, Mr Leung said the Government would set up more offices in the Mainland. This will include a new Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Wuhan, and liaison units under the Beijing Office and the Shanghai ETO.

     He said the Government would consider increasing the number of ETOs in Asia and would commence formal negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement between Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

     To foster development of innovation and technology industries, the Government will re-initiate the setting up of an Innovation and Technology Bureau. The Chief Executive earnestly hopes that it will receive support from the Legislative Council.

     Mr Leung said the Government was committed to advancing constitutional development and achieving the objective of selecting the Chief Executive by way of universal suffrage in 2017 in strict compliance with the Basic Law and the Interpretation and Decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

     He said the Government would collate views from the ongoing public consultation on the issue and commence the "Five-step Process" of constitutional development.

Ends/Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Issued at HKT 13:12