Hong Kong Budget 2018-2019

Winner of Hong Kong budget surplus is whole city, not us, Science Park head says

Chairwoman Fanny Law seeks to allay fears about massive funding received, saying the park will take steps to be accountable

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 7:46pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2018, 11:21pm

The head of Hong Kong’s Science Park on Saturday dismissed concerns that it would become an “independent kingdom” after being given a massive HK$40 billion (US$5.1 billion) slice of the budget funding pie.

Park chairwoman Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun said public concerns about the park going it alone with such a large amount was “absurd”.

“[The funding] was a result of many rounds of consultation between the park and the Innovation and Technology Bureau, and we all agreed this was the right direction. There is definitely no such thing as us becoming an independent kingdom,” Law said.

All eyes on Hong Kong’s Science Park after massive HK$40 billion budget handout

“The park is not the winner of this year’s budget. Hong Kong is the ultimate winner ... What’s most important is that everyone is working towards developing the city’s future. It’s not about any power struggle,” she said.

On Wednesday, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced he would set aside HK$50 billion for the city’s innovation and technology development. The park would be in charge of HK$40 billion, including HK$20 billion for the first phase of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park to be built in the Lok Ma Chau Loop.

Another HK$10 billion was allocated to the park for supporting tenants and building infrastructure and facilities.

The remaining HK$10 billion was earmarked for funding world-renowned research institutes or tech enterprises to conduct midstream and downstream research and development projects in the areas of biotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics technologies in the park.

Law said the park was considering rent waivers or subsidises to attract multinational companies to set up shop in the city.

“I haven’t received the board’s consent on this, but we are considering going in such a direction. If we want to attract these big companies to come to Hong Kong, we need to think about what kind of generous conditions we can offer,” she said.

The park charges market rental rates of about HK$23 to HK$37 per square foot depending on the type of premises, which would be equivalent to rent for an A grade office space in Kowloon Bay or Kwun Tong.

Hong Kong reboots with ‘back to the future’ budget

Last November, Hong Kong was listed as the world’s most expensive urban centre to rent an office.

Separately, Law said she hoped to set up a governance committee to allow lawmakers and industry players to scrutinise their funding and operations, specifically on plans to transform the park into a “Smart Campus”.

Portions of HK$7 billion in the funding allocated to the sector would go towards the initiative, which includes projects such as testing driverless cars and unmanned convenience stores with cashless payment.

“I hope such a committee can allow lawmakers and others to monitor how we spend money on specific Smart Campus projects. As technology keeps improving, it’s difficult if we have to get funding for each individual project from the Legislative Council every time,” Law said.

“We’re happy to discuss what kind of arrangement would allow us to be flexible but also accountable,” she said.