Policy Address measures take aim at city’s most pressing issues

In his first-ever Policy Address, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu pointed out that Hong Kong is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, yet notwithstanding these challenges, Hong Kong still has its own distinctive advantages of enjoying staunch support from the motherland, and abundant opportunities under the “one country, two systems” principle. Mr Lee mentioned that in preparing this Policy Address, he pondered the most pressing needs of the citizens of Hong Kong. If that is the guiding philosophy behind his Policy Address, then we can be quite optimistic of securing a better future, and the “Pearl of the Orient” will shine ever brighter.

Mr Lee announced he will inject a fresh impetus into the economy, and strengthen Hong Kong’s competitiveness by attracting more enterprises and talents to the city with a wide variety of innovative measures. In practical terms, the government will refund the extra stamp duty paid by eligible incoming talents who purchase residential property, and in addition, launch the quota-less Top Talent Pass Scheme together while suspending the annual quota under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. In terms of investment, a new Hong Kong Investment Corp Ltd will be set up to further optimize the use of fiscal reserves for promoting the development of industries and the economy, consolidating the Hong Kong Growth Portfolio, the GBA Investment Fund, and the Strategic Tech Fund established under the Future Fund, as well as the Co-Investment Fund, pooling relevant resources under the direction of the government to invest in strategic industries to attract and support more enterprises to develop their businesses in Hong Kong.

I applaud all these new measures. If we can effectively attract more talent and capital, not only will it play a crucial role in the process of relaunching Hong Kong’s economy, but also effectively respond to the aspirations that President Xi Jinping expressed in his speech marking the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on July 1.

Looking ahead, whether Hong Kong can better integrate into the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is pivotal in the success of Hong Kong’s economic future. It was reiterated in the Policy Address that we will actively develop the Northern Metropolis area, with the goal of creating synergy with Shenzhen and the entire Greater Bay Area.

In my opinion, the proposals presented in the Policy Address are groundbreaking in many ways. For example, in the development of the Northern Metropolis, I&T infrastructure will be increased, including the construction of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, the accelerated development of the San Tin Technopole, and the construction of an East Rail line station at Science and Technology Park or Pak Shek Kok. The holistic approach to the development of the Northern Metropolis area is vastly better than a “piecemeal” model. Hong Kong is emerging from the pandemic and has to recuperate from the damage caused by social unrest and the pandemic; an accelerated recovery is particularly imperative. Under such circumstances, only an integrated and innovative development model can serve the purpose.

Last but not least, the Policy Address stresses that the pace of public housing construction will be accelerated by adopting standardized simple design and the Modular Integrated Construction approach. At the same time, it is also stated that the minimum living space for public housing will be increased. On a macro level, the government will expedite land production, so that the usual over-a-decade-long timeline required for large housing projects to turn “primitive land” into “spade-ready sites” will be significantly reduced by half.

Hong Kong has long been plagued by its housing and living environment problems. In his speech delivered at the opening of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi reiterated the urgency for the HKSAR government to resolve the city’s deep-rooted conflicts and problems in economic and social development. Housing is certainly one of those deep-seated problems. Therefore, the public housing policy proposed in the Policy Address not only responds to the central government’s aspirations but also, to a great extent, matches the expectations of the public.

The author, a radiologist, is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Coalition and a council member of the Chinese Young Entrepreneurs Association.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.