CY policy address focuses on increased housing and poverty fight
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, CY Leung, gave his second policy address today. SCMP.com followed it live.
CY kicks off with some of the issues the government is tackling. He says the government is doing its utmost to increase land supply, and in formulating a long-term housing strategy.
It has also introduced the transport subsidy scheme and the clean air plan - he says the new health quality air index shows government determination to improve air quality.
He talked of moves to replace Euro commercial vehicles, and added that the introduction of timetables for waste management have been mapped out.
CY said that the zero delivery quota policy had been introduced to stem Hong Kong's birth tourism problem, and that baby formula controls were in force.
He also talked of the public consultation on chief executive nomination that has recently been launched.
The first batch of initiatives would focus on how to sustain economic growth, Leung told the Legislative Council in the second policy address on Wednesday morning.
The government is to study setting up more hotels and leisure facilities on Lantau, he said.
He will set up a Lantau development advisory committee to explore how to exploit the potential of the island, given its strategic location.
The chief executive said the committee would solicit proposals from the public to “capitalise on the benefits brought by major infrastructure projects in the area, and the synergy between Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta.”
The infrastructure he refers include the proposed third runway of Chek Lap Kok airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, to open in 2016.
“With the commissioning of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge in the near future, we will actively study the possibility of building more hotels and leisure tourism facilities on Lantau island,” he said.
The government would also explore ways to further develop the eastern waters off Lantau and neighbouring areas, forming what he called an eastern Lantau metropolis to accommodate a new population.
A detailed study will also be conducted on the feasibility of developing major shopping, dining, entertainment and hotel facilities near the border checkpoint at the cross-delta estuary bridge.
He also announced continued restrictions on the Individual Visit Scheme and multiple-entry permit agreement, as agreed with the central government
He said: “There will be a temporary freeze on the number of pilot cities for the scheme and the scope of the multiple-entry permit arrangement.”
Innovation and technology
Leung brought back the setting up of an Innovation and Technology Bureau to the government’s agenda.
“Innovation and technology are not only economic drivers, they can also upgrade our quality of life and enhance the efficiency of our community,” Leung said.
He said he had decided to re-initiate the setting up of an Innovation and Technology Bureau and work with various sectors to formulate the objectives and policies for the development of innovation and technology.
He hopes his idea will be backed by the Legislative Council.
Leung also said the government and the Science and Technology Parks Corporation were reviewing the effectiveness and long-term strategy of the Science Park and industrial estates.
The Innovation and Technology Commission had started a comprehensive review of the Innovative and Technology Fund operation in the middle of last year as the sectors believed that it should be more progressive and proactive in supporting enterprises with research and development as well as commercialisation.
The government has proposed a HK$3 billion low-income working family subsidy scheme.
The Low-income Working Family Allowance, unveiled by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in his second policy address on Wednesday morning, will offer basic allowance to households in working poor, tied to employment and working hours.
“More allowance will be granted to those who work more. Families with eligible children and young members will receive additional allowance,” said Leung. The scheme is expected to benefit more than more than 200,000 low-income families with 710,000 members, including 180,000 eligible children and young people
Families who wish to receive the monthly allowance have to pass through an income and asset test “with a lower threshold”, Leung said.
The allowance will be granted under the two-tier system based on working hours and family income. If the family income is equivalent to or below 50 per cent of the median monthly domestic household income and the applicant is a working member who meets the working hour threshold, it will be eligible for a full basic allowance of HK$600 or HK$1,000 per month.
Each child of the families will entitle eligible applicant to an additional HK$800 per month.
'Long Hair' protests
Radical pan-democratic lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was expelled from the legislative chamber following a disruptive protest as the chief executive was unveiling the government’s elderly initiatives.
The League of Social Democrats chairman shouted his support for a universal retirement scheme.
At that time, the chief executive was announcing plans to commission a study on a retirement scheme, and to consider expanding the Old Age Living Allowance scheme to Hongkongers living in Guangdong.
The radical lawmaker, who hurt his leg last year, was put in a wheelchair and taken out of the place by security guards as he shouted slogans. “Leung Chun-ying, you are a liar!” he yelled.
Video: Watch Long Hair's protest
CY has unveiled a number of initiatives to support people with disabilities, including a plan to provide 6,200 additional places for rehabilitation services.
Leung told the Legco the new places will be delivered within this term, while in the long run the government will also provide additional places through the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses.
The government will also seek to enhance regular assistance to disabled people through the Community Care Fund.
“[We propose to] regularise three Community Care Fund programmes... [to] provide a training subsidy for children with disabilities from low-income families, allowing them to pay for self-financing services while they are on the waiting list for subvented prevented pre-school services,” said Leung.
The Hong Kong Paralympians Fund is also to get an injection of HK$200 million to strengthen support for athletes with disabilities.
Hong Kong’s elderly will get the option of residing in homes for the aged on the mainland, according to Leung.
It is a measure by the government to shorten the long centralised waiting list for subsidised home-care places locally.
“The government will buy residential-care places from a home for the aged run by a Hong Kong NGO in Shenzhen to provide an option for elderly people on the central waiting list for subsidised residential-care places,” Leung said.
The Social Welfare Department will invite eligible Hongkongers to apply for those places in the second quarter of this year and arrange for them to move in during the third quarter.
Discussions are ongoing with another Hong Kong NGO to make places available at a home for the aged in Zhaoqing, also in Guangdong province, under similar arrangements.
The scheme will be reviewed two years after implementation.
The government will continue to increase the supply of subsidised home-care places for the elderly through a multipronged approach that includes a special scheme on privately owned sites for welfare uses.
As for an ongoing pilot scheme that dished out elderly health-care vouchers, Leung proposed further doubling the annual voucher amount to HK$2,000 per person within this year, while incorporating the scheme into a regular assistance programme.
In addition, Leung said the government would convert free outreach primary dental care services for the elderly in residential-care homes or day-care centres into a regular programme. The scope of services would expand to include fillings, extractions and dentures.
A popular scheme that allows elderly residents to travel around the city at a concessionary fare of HK$2 will be extended in phases to include green minibuses starting from the first quarter of next year.
The concession now applies to travel on the MTR, buses including those on Lantau, and most ferries any time during their operating hours. Airport buses are excluded.
Education for ethnic minority groups
After a long wait, ethnic minority pupils can finally have a Chinese-as-second-language learning framework at Hong Kong’s primary and secondary schools, starting this September, as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said.
The new curriculum will come with supporting learning and teaching materials as well as assessment tools, Leung said, adding that an annual funding of about HK$200 million will be provided from the next academic year to enhance school support. This will include an intensive teaching mode to improve ethnic minority pupils’ basic Chinese learning at primary levels.
The Education Bureau will also offer school-based support and in-service professional development programmes to enhance the capability of schools and teachers in teaching Chinese as a second language, Leung said.
From the next school year, the government will provide a Chinese-language applied learning subject for ethnic minority pupils at secondary levels. It is also developing Vocational Chinese language courses to help ethnic minority dropouts find jobs.
“[Ethnic minority children] have much difficulty integrating fully into the community due to differences in culture, language and ethnic background,” said Leung. “Most ethnic minority residents call Hong Kong home. To integrate into the community and develop their careers, they must improve their ability to listen to, speak, read and write Chinese.”
Leung’s administration will inject HK$10 billion into the Lotteries Fund to help homes for the elderly and rehabilitation centres redevelop and expand their facilities.
The fund was set up by the government in the 1960s to finance welfare projects.
Leung said the move would allow welfare agencies to redevelop their sites in ways that would better utilise land resources.
He said the government had received about 60 proposals from such agencies since September last year. The proposals involve providing 17,000 more places for elderly and disabled Hongkongers.
The government will also increase lump-sum subsidies to social welfare agencies and allow them greater flexibility in using the funds. The extra financial support will involve an additional budget commitment of HK$470 million a year.
The Youth Hostel Scheme will be expanded.
Adding to the two ongoing projects in Sheung Wan and Tai Po, Leung said two more projects will be launched in Mong Kok and Jordan.
The four projects are expected to provide about 1,000 hostel places, he said.
Uniformed groups will also benefit under the government’s goal to strengthen its networking and communication with young people.
“The government’s recurrent subvention for uniformed groups such as the Scout Association, the Hong Kong Red Cross and the Hong Kong Road Safety Patrol will be doubled in the coming year,” he said. “Funding for the Assistance Scheme for Needy Student Members will be increased to benefit more students from needy families.”
Leung has also announced an expansion of the Cadet Corps of the Auxiliary Medical Service, with the target of tripling the number of members from the current 1,000 to 3,000 in five years.
The value of kindergarten voucher will be increased by HK$2,500 each year in the next two academic years, providing parents with HK$20,010 per child in year 2014/15 and HK$22,510 in the following year.
The government will also lift the fee remission ceiling to help needy families.
Three learning support programmes, namely free lunch at schools for primary pupils receiving a full grant under the student financial assistance schemes, doubling the grant for each primary and secondary pupil eligible for textbook subsidies, and establishing a tuition fee reimbursement system for needy pupils enrolled in programmes below sub-degree level, will be incorporated into the government’s regular assistance expenditure from the next school year.
The government will also provide public sector primary schools with extra subsidy for a clerical assistant from the next academic year to help relieve the administrative workload of teachers.
A phased provision of wireless network services and other supporting facilities for all public sector schools will start from the 2014/15 school year.
In terms of tertiary education, from the 2015/16 academic year and in the following three years, the government will increase the number of subsidised university places for holders of associate degrees, from 4,000 to 5,000 per year.
It will also introduce a Mainland University Study Subsidy Scheme, where local students admitted into mainland universities via a Hong Kong-mainland cooperation programme may receive a means-tested grant of up to HK$15,000 per year during their studies. The scheme is not subject to any quota, said Leung.
A new scholarship scheme will be implemented to support up to 100 outstanding local students studying in renowned overseas universities. Under the scheme, apart from a scholarship of up to HK$250,000, students in need will also receive a means-tested bursary of up to HK$200,000 each year.
The government planned to increase the maximum allowable density of most districts by 20 per cent, the chief executive said.
Before that, it would first lift a development moratorium on southern Pok Fu Lam.
Leung said that except for northern Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula, other districts had the potential for denser development.
But he reckoned that the move should take into account impacts on the environment.
Leung will end the halt on development in southern Pok Fu Lam after construction of new rail lines in the Western and South districts are completed.
The government will also redevelop Wah Fu Estate to provide 11,000 more public housing flats.
He estimates the government can roll out 210,000 homes in the next five years, if it is able to rezone some 150 sites for residential use.
Among the sites are 80 plots, covering more than 150 hectares in all, that are now defined as green belts or zoned for government and institutional use. Earlier, some 70 plots have been identified.
The government has increased its 10-year target of public housing supply by 36 per cent, building on a promise it made last year.
“The government has identified sufficient land for 179,000 public residential housing units and 17,000 Home Ownership Scheme units as pledged,” Leung said, referring to two existing government housing schemes.
“We aim to provide an average of about 20,000 public residential housing units and about 8,000 HOS units per year.”
The refreshed figures represent a 36 per cent rise in 10-year public housing supply compared with the previous goal.
Increasing flat supplies under the two schemes are among two of three goals outlined in the government’s long-term housing strategy.
To meet the final goal – increasing overall housing supply – government projections show private housing will go up about 40 per cent, from about 9,680 flats over the last five years to 13,600 flats in each of the next five years.
To explore extra land for housing, the government is conducting studies on the possibilities of reclaiming northern Lantau waters and Sunny Bay. It is also studying the feasibility of building artificial islands in central waters to develop an eastern Lantau metropolis.
Watch: How a sub-divided flat dweller reacts to CY Leung's 2014 policy address
The government will spend a total of HK$2 billion on better waste management and post landfill restoration plans.
A HK$1 billion landfill restoration fund will be set up for non-governmental organisations to develop the former but turn recovered trash sites into useful community facilities, Leung Chun-ying said.
The funding will be made available to sports associations, charities or green groups for them to implement their proposals.
It is understood about seven landfill sites with a total area of 18 hectares have been shortlisted for the scheme.
These sites include two in Ma Yau Tong in East Kowloon, three in Tseung Kwan O, one in Pillar Point, Tuen Mun, and another one in Ngau Tam Mei.
All these landfills have been closed and been safely restored.
Leung will also reserve HK$1 billion to set up a recycling fund to support local waste recycling activities. But details of its applications have yet to be set out.
He is also committed to spend HK$400 million a year to finance the operation of a network of community green stations in 18 districts. The first station is expected to be completed by mid 2014.
The city will do more to promote the use of electric vehicles, Leung says.
It will launch a pilot scheme to let electric-taxi manufacturers build quick-charging stations at car parks managed by the Transport Department.
It is hoped that this measure will encourage the trade to introduce more electric taxis.
Some 1,000 medium-speed charging stations for electric vehicles will be built around the city. The government will buy more of such cars.
“Principal officials and I will take the lead in using electric cars,” Leung said.
The government will also promote a bicycle-friendly environment in new towns and new development areas. It is pushing a pilot scheme in Tai Po district to improve bicycle trails and parking lots.
As for barrier-free access, the government is looking into adding more lifts across the city, on top of 160 ongoing projects that aim to improve accessibility for the disabled.
This project will earmark three locations for top priority in each of the 18 districts.
Focuses in health in the policy address included psychiatric services and colorectal cancer prevention.
To tackle the most common cancer in Hong Kong in 2011, the government will subsidise colorectal cancer screening for higher risk groups. The Department of Health is conducting a study with the Hospital Authority and will start the preparatory work of a pilot programme this year, said Leung.
Additional resources will be given to provide new generation drugs for more psychiatric patients and strengthen manpower to enhance in-patient and out-patient services.
The Case Management Programme for patients with severe mental illness will expand to cover all 18 districts in Hong Kong.
Strategic studies on the planned acute general hospital in the Kai Tak Development are underway. A Chinese medicine hospital will be set up at a Tseung Kwan O site, originally earmarked for private hospital development.
The government will consult the public later this year on specific implementation proposals on the voluntary Health Protection Scheme.
A committee is conducting a comprehensive review of the manpower demand in various healthcare professions.
A pilot training and support scheme will be launched to attract and retain talent for industries facing a shortage of workers, Leung said.
The scheme will align structured apprenticeship training programmes with clear career progression pathways, he said.
The government and the industries will provide a grant or an allowance for apprentices in the first year of training and the ensuing three years of apprenticeship.
Participating industries will have to employ trainees who have completed training at a particular salary and provide them with clear career progression pathways.
The Vocational Training Council will be responsible for implementing the scheme, benefiting 2,000 trainees.
Also, from the 2014/15 academic year, recurrent funding will be allocated to the council to provide industrial attachment opportunities for all students of higher diploma programmes and students of some diploma in vocational education programmes, benefiting more than 9,000 students.
Moreover, the government will set up a HK$1 billion endowment fund. Its investment income will be used to provide long-term support for the sustainable development of the qualifications framework as the current qualifications framework support schemes will end soon.
The Education Bureau will also increase manpower to support schools in providing career guidance service and life planning education.
From this September, public sector schools operating classes at senior secondary levels will be provided with an additional recurrent grant equivalent to the salary of a graduate teacher to introduce more life planning education elements.
The civil service
The government will press ahead with a plan for a new families clinic and enhance specialised dental services for civil servants, Leung announced in the policy address on Wednesday.
It will also provide more training opportunities for civil servants, and subsidise them to attend national development training courses and exchange programmes.
“I wish to extend my gratitude to our civil servants for their commitment to serving the community with tenacity and passion. I will continue to maintain close and candid communication with them, listen to their views and enhance our mutual understanding and mutual trust,” said Leung.
The government will speed up the eight departmental quarters projects for disciplined services, with a target of providing more than 2,200 flats by 2020.
Culture and Sports
More cultural and sports facilities will be constructed at the regional level as part of a government initiative to boost community participation.
A cross-district community cultural centre will be built in Ngau Tau Kok to serve as a major cultural facility in Kowloon East, Leung announced.
An indoor sports centres will be built in each of Sha Tin and Tuen Mun to meet the sports needs of local residents, schools and sports associations.
The government will have to seek funding for these projects, Leung told the Legco.
The long-awaited West Kowloon Cultural District will start to provide a range of cultural and arts facilities from 2015.
Radical lawmakers of political grouping People Power were expelled from the Legco chamber as they called for the idea of public nomination to be included in electoral reforms.
Albert Chan Wai-yip and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen were taken away as Leung made no specific proposals in the one-paragraph constitutional development section of his policy address.
“Public nomination!” the pair shouted as Leung emphasised looming electoral reforms had to comply with the Basic Law and the interpretation and decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
Earlier, League of Social Democrats lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung was also expelled – in a wheelchair – following his unruly protest against Leung’s elderly and retirement initiatives.
Comments from our expert, Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung, on CY Leung's latest blueprint:
Choy: “Leung includes a number of benefits for low-income groups. But he neglects the middle-class who may as a result have resentment. Also, as recent reports suggest, the government is increasing its recurrent expenditure. If this will lead to any tax increase, it will be also the middle-class who foots the bill. This can create controversy.”
“Setting up no statutory bodies doesn’t mean the government is making any breakthrough on certain aspects. It set up many committees last year. But apart from one on financial services, other committees are not delivering yet.”
Choy: “His measures on mainland trade are an extension of his “internal diplomacy”. However, his idea of attracting more high-income groups from the mainland to travel to Hong Kong will contradict the plan to slow the expansion of the individual visit scheme.”
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