Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address
A forward-looking blueprint to develop the economy and build an inclusive society
Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Mr CY Leung, delivered his 2017 Policy Address to the Legislative Council on 18 January, his fifth and final policy address before the election of a new chief executive on 26 March.
In his address, entitled 'Make best use of opportunities, develop the economy, improve people's livelihood and build an inclusive society';, Mr Leung underlined that the Government believes that 'only through economic development can we improve people's livelihood and promote social harmony and inclusion';.
He said that over the past four years, Hong Kong's economy has seen moderate growth and receding inflation. The Government maintains a sound fiscal position. Unemployment remained at a very low level. Apart from reinforcing the competitive edges of traditional industries, the Government also strives to promote the development of emerging industries. Land and housing supply for the short and medium terms has increased significantly. Many infrastructure projects are underway.
The Government has made full efforts to alleviate poverty, care for the elderly, support the disadvantaged and encourage employment. Over the last four years, earnings for the employees in the lowest three income groups have increased by 5.2% after discounting inflation. The Government has invested heavily in healthcare infrastructure. Air quality in the city and water quality in Victoria Harbour have improved notably. Measures on climate change and waste management have been implemented progressively and important progress has been made in the protection and conservation of species and the rural environment.
The world's political and economic landscapes are undergoing profound changes. China is playing an increasingly prominent and leading role in the global economy. Against this background, Hong Kong's dual advantages of 'one country'; and 'two systems'; and its role as the 'super-connector'; are becoming more apparent. Leveraging the National 13th Five-Year Plan and the Belt & Road Initiative, Hong Kong enjoys endless economic opportunities, as it excels in 'what the country needs, and what Hong Kong is good at';.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland. Mr Leung stressed that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. 'There is absolutely no room for independence or any form of separation. Under 'one country, two systems';, every one of us has the obligation to fully comply with the Basic Law and safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,'; he said.
- Hong Kong would expand its network of government offices in the Mainland and overseas to promote Hong Kong's strengths and advantages, working on setting up 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.
- 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.
- The Government had invested HK$18 billion (EUR 2.17 billion) to enhance Hong Kong's Innovation and Technology (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.
- The Government will promote the development of applied scientific research. 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.
- Mr Leung outlined comprehensive plans to boost short, medium and long-term housing and land supply, which taken together can provide more than 600 000 housing units. He said the housing supply target for the decade from 2017-18 had been set at 460 000 units, including 200 000 public rental housing units and 80 000 subsidised sale flats.
- He projected private housing supply of 94 000 units of residential properties in the coming three to four years, which is 45 % higher than the figure at the beginning of the current-term Government. For the five-year period beginning 2016-17, an estimated 94 500 public housing units would be developed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society.
- Mr Leung said the Government's efforts in land supply were beginning to deliver results, but that 'we must keep up these efforts';. In the short to medium term, the Government will provide more than 380 000 residential units by changing land use and increasing development intensity, he said. This involves some 210 housing sites identified through land-use reviews, the Kai Tak Development Area, the Diamond Hill Comprehensive Development Area, reuse of three quarry sites, railway property-development projects, urban renewal projects and more.
- Two new towns, the first large-scale development towns in Hong Kong since Tung Chung in the 1990s, would be built at Kwu Tung North and Fanling North. The first population intake is expected in six years, as is the first population intake for the Tung Chung New Town Extension.
- The blueprint for the development and conservation of Lantau Island will be published in the first half of this year, with the basic direction of 'development for the north, conservation for the south';.
- The Government's long-term planning study, 'Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030';, has begun and a public engagement exercise is under way, Mr Leung said.
- The Planning Department will conduct a survey on the distribution and use of all brownfield sites in Hong Kong this year. The aim of re-organising the land use of brownfield sites and releasing such sites for development is to optimise their use, improve the rural environment and provide suitable land for relevant industries.
- The Planning Department estimates that at least 4 800 hectares of land will be required up to 2046. Mr Leung said Hong Kong would 'still need to identify at least another 1 200 hectares of land even if all the ongoing short, medium and long-term land-supply initiatives are timely implemented in full';. The housing problem in Hong Kong 'boils down to land use"'; Mr Leung said, noting Hong Kong's high proportion of country park area, which accounts for 40% of Hong Kong's total land area – 'six times that of our total residential land';. He suggested that more land with high ecological value be incorporated into country parks. 'At the same time, we should also consider allocating a small proportion of land on the periphery of country parks with relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value for purposes other than real estate development, such as public housing and non-profit-making elderly homes,'; Mr Leung said.
- The Government will introduce a bill into the Legislative Council aimed at offering tax concessions to attract companies to develop aircraft leasing business in Hong Kong.
- The Government is committed to promoting heritage conservation. Five batches of projects involving 19 historic buildings had been rolled out under the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme. Eight have been opened to the public. Among them, four have won Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
- Mr Leung also announced a series of measures to boost education. Schools would get more funding to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, as well as the teaching of the English language. A site for the development of a state-of-the-art Vocational Training Council campus has been identified in Cha Kwo Ling, and planning is under way. The Government also supports the construction of an Aviation and Marine Engineering Centre on a site of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education.
- The Government would spend HK$20 billion (EUR 2.41 billion) over the next five years to launch 26 projects to develop new sports and recreation facilities or improve existing ones. Projects include two sports grounds, nine football pitches, one sports centre, four swimming pool complexes, two lawn bowling greens, one cycling ground, four tennis courts, 11 outdoor basketball courts and 20 open spaces, amounting to a total of 54 facilities. Technical feasibility studies will be conducted on another 15 sports and recreation facilities while the pre-construction works for Kai Tak Sports Park, the largest sports project to be built in Hong Kong, are close to completion.
- The Chief Executive also announced a raft of measures to help the elderly and improve healthcare services, and a package of measures to enhance retirement protection.
Commenting on the 2017 Policy Address, Hong Kong's Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung, told the media that it was a "substantial, pragmatic, bold and forward-looking blueprint" which demonstrates the Government's vision and commitment over a wide spectrum of policy issues.
'The current-term Government is proactive and committed to responding to the needs of the people and catering for the long-term interests of Hong Kong. We are not shying away from contentious problems and issues, and are determined to tackle them head-on. In this year's Policy Agenda booklet, we've set out 182 new initiatives which are the highest on record since the beginning of this term. This underlines the fact that we are not adopting a caretaker government's approach and mentality.';
Full details of the 2017 Policy Address can be found here.