Carrie Lam

Maiden policy address to feature tech initiatives, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam reveals

Top official accentuates positive developments and hints at delivering comprehensive remarks next week

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 11:31pm

Hong Kong’s top official has confirmed she will announce new initiatives to boost the city’s innovation and technology sector during her maiden policy address next week.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s revelation came hours after she pledged in her National Day speech to bring Hong Kong to “even greater heights” and improve people’s livelihood by capitalising on the city’s strengths and seizing opportunities arising from China’s “growing prosperity”.

Since taking office as Hong Kong’s first female leader in July, Lam and her ministers have dropped hints that her first policy speech would be comprehensive and cover new measures such as tax cuts and reforms, additional funding for education and elderly services, and“starter homes” to ease the city’s housing shortage.

National Day protest in Hong Kong draws 40,000 to streets, organisers claim

Writing on her Facebook page on Sunday, Lam said the address would include measures so that the city’s innovation and technology sector could “catch up” with global trends.

“Technological applications can inject new energy into Hong Kong’s economy, and help us solve social problems. They can create more quality job opportunities for young people ... but it needs the government’s push and support,” she said.

“Please pay attention to my policy address.”

Technological applications can inject new energy into Hong Kong’s economy, and help us solve social problems
Chief Executive Carrie Lam

While the chief executive did not elaborate, she has recently offered glimpses of what she might formally unveil on October 11.

Speaking at the opening of an InnoTech Expo event on September 24, Lam said the government could support innovation and technology in at least eight areas, such as increasing resources for research and development, and providing investment funds.

Andy Chung Wai-leung, who runs a local fintech start-up and the Institute of Financial Technologists of Asia, hoped Lam would offer tax waivers for such firms’ spending on research and development.

“It would be good if our profit could be used for research and development ... I also hope the government could groom more people for the industry, and promote STEM in schools,” Chung added, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Steve Chen, director of Hong Kong-based Taiwanese technology company Picowork, agreed that the city needed more people who could work in tech companies and support for what they do.

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau touched on the matter on Sunday in his official blog. He wrote that he hoped a greater number of “adventurous young Hongkongers could be more open to ... finding new ways” in the field of fintech. He said the government would help them and offer guidance.

Carrie Lam’s popularity dips to lowest level since she became leader of Hong Kong – but it’s still higher than her predecessor

With respect to other measures in her address, Lam said last Wednesday she sought to go beyond her election campaign promises and reduce the city’s profits tax from its current level of 16.5 per cent to below 10 per cent for all businesses. The new rate would apply to the first HK$2 million of profits made by businesses of all sizes.

The “Starter Homes” scheme was also expected to figure prominently in her remarks. It aims to help young families who cannot afford private housing but earn too much to qualify for public flat rentals.

‘Biggest challenge is to connect with young’ says Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam at forum launch

Lam had also pledged to spend an additional HK$5 billion on education. In July, the Legislative Council approved HK$3.6 billion in government funding, and educators expected the chief executive to detail how the remaining sum would be spent.

On social welfare, lawmakers had urged Lam to introduce measures to improve the city’s elderly services. In August, she said she was prepared to reject the previous administration’s long-term fiscal strategy, and could instead spend more generously to enable the elderly to live in their own homes, rather than having them incur high bills in hospital.