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Economy, housing and population policy focus for Policy Address

     The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, has today (January 14) in his annual Policy Address unveiled new measures to boost the economy, increase housing supply and harness the potential of Hong Kong people.

     The Chief Executive also announced a series of initiatives in poverty alleviation, elderly care, environmental protection, health care, education and youth development.

     Mr Leung stressed that constitutional development must proceed in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

     He said he sincerely hoped the community would make good use of the two-month consultation period launched last week to discuss issues in a rational and pragmatic way to forge a consensus.

     On housing, Mr Leung provided a comprehensive report on the concerted efforts being made to make available more land for housing and commercial development, and to achieve the Government's 10-year housing target of 480 000 units.

     The Chief Executive also announced a new five-prong strategy to address the challenges brought about by demographic change, including plans to extend the retirement age, nurture local manpower, attract talent from outside Hong Kong and help women and the underprivileged enter the workforce.

     On the economic front, Mr Leung said that apart from the pillar industries of trading, financial services, shipping, tourism and professional services, many emerging small industries with great potential deserve attention and government support.

     He said Hong Kong industries, regardless of scale, share the common advantage of Hong Kong's role as a "super-connector" between the Mainland and the rest of the world.

     "To promote economic development, Hong Kong should put more emphasis on building economic ties with both the Mainland and overseas countries," he said.

     Riding on the recent agreement to liberalise services' trade with Guangdong, Mr Leung said Hong Kong would continue efforts to achieve basic liberalisation of trade in services with the entire Mainland by the end of this year.

     He said Hong Kong would actively work with Guangdong to explore new modes of co-operation and maximise development opportunities for Hong Kong people and enterprises in response to the proposed Guangdong Pilot Free Trade Zone covering Nansha, Qianhai and Hengqin.

     New Economic and Trade Offices would also be opened in the Asian region, he said.

     Mr Leung said there is room to diversify the financial services industry and capitalise on Hong Kong's dual identity as a major international financial centre and China's leading global financial centre. He said $500 million would be set aside to pave the way for the establishment of an independent Insurance Authority.

     Mr Leung said Hong Kong's maritime services sector, covering ship management, broking and chartering, finance, marine insurance, maritime law and arbitration and support services, has "enormous potential for growth".

     The Government will take forward the establishment of a new maritime body to promote Hong Kong's maritime services industry. It will also enhance the functions of the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council to help foster the development of the industry and nurture talent, especially in high-end professional maritime services.

     The Government will press ahead with infrastructure work at the runway and south apron of the former airport to tie in with the hotel development in the "hotel belt" adjacent to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. Talks will also start on the Phase 2 development of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

     The Government would consider building a new convention centre above Exhibition Station in the Shatin to Central Link, he said.

     The Government will consider ways to optimise the use of remaining vacant sites at the Science Park for the development of new research and development (R&D) facilities. The Science Park is currently home to nearly 500 partner companies, providing more than 10 000 technology-related jobs. The Park will be able to accommodate more than 600 companies when Phase 3 is fully operational in 2016.

     Mr Leung proposed injecting $5 billion into the Innovation and Technology Fund to better provide sustained and comprehensive support for innovation and technology development. An Enterprise Support Scheme will also be set up to enhance funding for private sector R&D projects.

     To tackle working poverty, Mr Leung said the proposed Low-Income Working Family Allowance, costing around $3 billion annually, would benefit over 200 000 low-income families with 710 000 people, including more than 170 000 children and young people. The scheme will be implemented within 18 months from the date of funding approval by the Legislative Council's Finance Committee.

     He said $200 million will again be earmarked to continue the short-term food assistance service for two more years, to end-2017.

     On retirement protection, Mr Leung said there were divergent views in the community, and that the Commission on Poverty would launch a public consultation in the latter half of this year.

     Mr Leung, agreeing that protection for needy citizens after retirement should be improved, asked the Financial Secretary to set aside $50 billion to provide for future needs.

     The Government will also continue to improve Mandatory Provident Fund arrangements, including the introduction of a "core fund" with fee control to address concerns over "high fee" and "difficulty in making fund choices".

     To provide better care for the elderly, about $800 million has been earmarked for 3 000 vouchers in the Community Care Service Voucher for the Elderly pilot scheme. The vouchers will be issued in the three years from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

     More resources will also be provided to strengthen support for families and children in dire need, including mental patients and ex-mentally ill persons and children with special educational needs and their families.

     To improve air quality, the Government will introduce legislation requiring ocean-going vessels at berth in Hong Kong to switch to low-sulphur diesel. At the end of 2015, low-emission zones will be set up in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok, where only low-emission buses can be used by franchised bus companies. Franchised bus companies will also test single-deck electric buses in mid-2015.

     To promote the sustainable development of the recycling industry, a Recycling Fund will be introduced to upgrade the operational capabilities of the recycling industry, increase the quantity of recyclables recovered, raise the quality of treated materials and establish a stable outlet for recycled materials.

     The Chief Executive also announced that the Government had set a new target of achieving a 5 per cent saving in electricity consumption for government buildings under comparable operating conditions in the coming five years.

Ends/Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Issued at HKT 13:11


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