2017 Policy Address outlines plans to develop economy and improve people's livelihood
"We believe that only through economic development can we improve people's livelihood and promote social harmony and inclusion," Mr Leung said, delivering his fifth and final Policy Address, "Make Best Use of Opportunities, Develop the Economy, Improve People's Livelihood, Build an Inclusive Society".
On economic development, Mr Leung said the National 13th Five-Year Plan and the Belt and Road Initiative would provide new opportunities for Hong Kong in areas such as financial and professional services, as well as innovation and technology (I&T).
The Government would actively consider the recommendations on the sustainable development of Hong Kong's financial market and financial services sector by the Financial Services Development Council concerning taxation, laws and regulations, nurturing talent, etc., and take forward the feasible measures.
The Government will also invite the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to strengthen overseas promotion of Hong Kong's financial services industry.
Mr Leung said Hong Kong would expand its network of offices in the Mainland and overseas to promote Hong Kong's strengths and advantages, with preliminary work under way to set up five new Economic and Trade Offices in India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Four new Liaison Offices supporting the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's work in the Mainland would be set up by mid-year in Tianjin, Zhejiang, Guangxi and Shaanxi, bringing the total number of Liaison Offices to 11 compared to three before the current-term Government took office.
To give full play to Hong Kong's role as a "super-connector" for the Belt and Road Initiative, more staffing resources would be given to the Belt and Road Office to formulate and implement strategies on a long-term basis. Hong Kong and countries along the Belt and Road would consider relaxing visa requirements to facilitate movement and boost people-to-people bonds.
Mr Leung said the Government had invested $18 billion to enhance Hong Kong's I&T ecosystem and would consider support measures such as offering tax and financial concessions to attract I&T enterprises from Hong Kong, the Mainland and overseas.
He said universities would be requested to carry out more impactful and translational research projects to meet Hong Kong's needs, so as to tie in with the work promoting the development of industries and re-industrialisation.
An InnoCell would be established adjacent to the Science Park to provide accommodation and facilities such as shared work spaces for leasing to staff of incubatees and start-ups at the Park.
On housing supply, the Chief Executive projected private housing supply of 94,000 units in the coming three to four years, which is 45 per cent higher than the figure at the beginning of the current-term Government.
On public housing, it is estimated that 94,500 units would be developed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society in the five-year period starting 2016-17.
Based on land supply in the short and medium terms through changing land uses and increasing development intensity, over 380,000 residential units will be provided while in the medium and long terms new development areas and new town extensions as well as potential railway property development projects being planned can provide over 8.6 million square metres of industrial and commercial floor area as well as over 220,000 residential units. The first population intake is expected in six to 10 years.
The Chief Executive also announced a raft of measures to help the elderly, enhance retirement protection and improve healthcare services.
The Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) scheme would be enhanced, with monthly assistance rising about one-third to $3,435 per person. Asset limits would be relaxed so the scheme could benefit more elderly people with financial needs. Around 500,000 people will benefit from these measures in the first year, with the coverage of OALA increased to 47 per cent.
The Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme would be improved by lowering the eligibility age from 70 to 65 to benefit an additional 400,000 people. Fee waivers for public hospital and clinic services will be extended to eligible elderly aged 75 or above.
The Government will also provide more vouchers for community care and residential care for the elderly and introduce a Fujian Scheme to provide the monthly Old Age Allowance for eligible elderly people living in Fujian.
On retirement protection, the Chief Executive announced plans to progressively abolish the “offsetting” of severance payments or long-service payments with Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contributions. The Government will also enhance the MPF system and map out the working hours policy direction.
On health care, Mr Leung said the Government would provide an additional $2 billion of recurrent funding to the Hospital Authority from 2017-18 to meet service demand for hospital beds, operating theatre sessions, emergency surgical services and increased quotas for endoscopies and diagnostic radiology as well as out-patient and specialist out-patient consultations.
The Government would also finance the construction of a Chinese medicine hospital at Tseung Kwan O and push ahead with plans to establish the Government Chinese Medicines Testing Institute to be managed by the Department of Health.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:43
Issued at HKT 13:43