Everything that matters in the 2015 Policy Address.
CY has stayed on message: housing housing housing. And other stuff.
Much of the 65 page address was dedicated to solving the housing problem in Hong Kong, youth policy, and attracting talent. Interaction with the Mainland is a common theme throughout. Constitutional development was also a prominent part of the address, with the CE re-emphasising Beijing’s authority in the matter. A university publication was also singled out – and not in a good way – for advocating Hong Kong’s “self-reliance” and “self-determination”.
Housing, Housing, Housing
Being the first policy address since the student driven Occupy Movements, much of the focus was on what would be done to deal with problems faced by youth. As expected, much was dedicated to helping the youth with housing and starting businesses. And correcting their mistakes.
Leung first addressed Hong Kong’s notorious subdivided flats and proposed to step up prosecution against owners who fail to comply with relevant orders. For occupants that may be rendered homeless as a result of these actions, the Government will provide them with transitional accommodation in accordance with the current mechanism.
20,000 Houses under the plan
Although already announced earlier, Leung reiterated the Government’s plan to maintain public rental housing production target of about 20,000 units each year for the next decade. He suggested the overwhelming response to the recent House Ownership s
Scheme (HOS) flats presale showed a need to increase the supply of sale flats.
PRH goes green
To further increase sale flats, the address proposed a pilot scheme where suitable Public Rental Housing (PRH) developments under construction would be for sale to Green Form applicants, with prices set at a level lower than those of HOS flats. Target buyers will be mainly sitting PRH tenants and PRH applicants who have passed the detailed vetting and are due for flat allocation.
Political Reform: Power flows downhill
In the introduction and first chapter, the CE addressed the controversy surrounding Constitutional Development and the Occupy Movement that ended just two months ago. Without pointing a finger, CY accused some people of “taking […] economic development […] for granted” and underestimating the importance of economic growth.
He warns that Hong Kong’s autonomy is not absolute and that the Basic Law stipulates what power Beijing delegates to the SAR, echoing statements in Beijing’s White Paper last year that fueled the annual July 1st march. He emphasised that the “selection of the Chief Executive comprises both the elements of election and appointment”, lending legitimacy to Beijing’s authority in the matter. He also claims, given that “One Country, Two systems” is unprecedented, “international standards” for Hong Kong to follow do not exist. CY also warns that Hong Kong will degenerate into anarchy unless the pursuance of democracy is carried out according to the law.
Students: Spare the rod…
Demonstrating his classic paternal attitude, CY says this about the students, “We fully recognised the aspirations of our young students for democracy and their concerns about political reforms. University students are the future pillars of society and deserve our care. Hence, there is all the more reason for their merits and correct their mistakes,” referring to their ‘misguided’ interpretation of the relationship between Hong Kong and China.
Economic Development: China is our friend
Most of Leung’s economic policy involved integration and collaboration with Mainland China. He announced a $1 billion fund to be set up to assist Hong Kong enterprises to develop the Mainland market, and suggested further market liberalisation of trade and services between the entire Mainland and Hong Kong would be achieved by the end of this year. He also stated that the Government is in talks to collaborate with the Guangdong Provincial Government to take advantage of the three pilot Free Trade Zones (Nansha, Qianhai, and Hengqin), while more Economic and Trade Offices were to be set up in China.
Build: 3rd Runway, Exhibitions, Smart City
Leung stated that the Government would continue to offer full support to the Airport Authority to implement the three-runway system project at the Hong Kong International Airport. He also suggested a new convention centre above the Exhibition Station of the Shatin to Central Link is being considered, with completion aimed for around 2020. While he did not mention the Innovative and Technology Bureau, he proposed an injection of $5 billion into the Government’s Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), and suggested the intention to use Kowloon East as a pilot area to explore the feasibility of developing a Smart City.
Skilled labour sought
With regards to a shortage in skilled labour, Leung suggested that while giving priority to the employment of local skilled workers, the construction industry needs to import its skilled workers, and the Supplementary Labour Scheme must be enhanced to allow imported skilled workers to work across various public sector works projects to enhance efficiency. Leung stated that the Government will explore with the construction industry and labour sector to resolve the issue.
Also, requirements for stay for several talent import schemes will also be relaxed to attract talent to live in the city.
Universal Pension unlikely
In his address the CE said he was not optimistic a consensus on retirement protection financing arrangements can be reached as voices suggest Professor Nelson Chow’s proposal for retirement protection would be “unsustainable”. The CE promised that the issue of retirement protection will be explored further in the future, but in the mean time, CY has asked the Financial Secretary to earmark $50 billion to provide for future needs.
Old people should work, min wage bump
In a bid to “unleash the potential of local labour force”, the Chief Executive says they will encourage the extension of retirement age, and review the existing welfare arrangements for disincentives for older people to continue working. The government also agreed to raise the Statutory Minimum Wage rate to $32.5, subject to approval in LegCo. CY also suggested talks are being held on a comprehensive working hours policy.
Bring the boys (and girls) back home
Plans to implement a pilot scheme to attract the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents who have emigrated overseas to return to Hong Kong was also announced. Details pending.
China is our children’s friend
While there was no mention of bringing National Education into the classroom again, the address suggested the EDB will renew the curriculum content of Chinese History and World History, and announced plans to provide a subsidy for students to join at least one Mainland exchange programme each in the primary and secondary stages. Also, a pilot scheme will be launched to provide financial and professional support for local public sector schools and Direct Subsidy Scheme schools. The scheme aims to progressively double the number of primary and secondary sister schools in Hong Kong and the Mainland to about 600 pairs by 2018.
Social Enterprise subsidy
The Government also announced it will set up a $300 million Youth Development Fund to support innovative youth development activities which are not covered by existing schemes. Subsidies may be in the form of matching funds for NGOs to assist young people in starting their own business.
The entire pan-dem camp except for People Power’s Albert Chan and Raymond Chan staged a walkout before CY Leung had begun his speech. People Power‘s two legislators would later be carried out by security under the orders of LegCo chairman Jasper Tsang after insisting on shouting slogans at CY and holding up banners that said “Hong Kong Traitor” on it. After a ten minute recess, the Chief Executive began by sarcastically thanking the opposition for leaving so he could quietly deliver his address.
In the introduction of his address, the Chief Executive singled out a series of publication published by “Undergrad”, the official magazine of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union. The publications featured titles such as “Hong Kong people deciding their own fate” and “Hong Kong Nationalism”. Leung said that the student group advocates that Hong Kong should find a path to self-reliance and self-determination, and asked political figures with close ties to the leaders of the student movement to “advise them against putting forward such fallacies”.