Carrie Lam’s Election Manifesto Prelude
New Resources for Education
New Direction for Taxation
New Hopes for Home Ownership
Carrie Lam today (13 February 2017) further elaborated on her election Manifesto focusing on three top priority areas: taxation initiatives to help propel the economy, an immediate $5 billion annual injection of recurrent expenditure to address pressing issues on education; as well as a new Task Force of professionals and other stakeholders to propose options to identify land for housing to be discussed and decided upon through a community-wide engagement exercise. Mrs Lam will announce her full Manifesto in the first half of March after listening to more feedback from the community.
At the news conference today, Mrs Lam said she would, if elected as the next Chief Executive, move to lower the profits tax rate, for the first $2 million reported profits, from the current 16.5% to 10%. Tens of thousands of small and medium-sized companies are expected to benefit by a reduction in tax payments of 40%. Mrs Lam also proposed to introduce a “super tax deduction” scheme whereby companies that invest in R&D will be eligible for an unprecedented super tax deduction with the deductible amount being a multiple of the investment spending, rather than capped by it. This should promote the development and use of innovative and technological products and services. Investments in environmental improvements, arts & culture and design, etc are also eligible.
On education, Mrs Lam proposed to allocate new resources to the sector in response to strong and compelling demand from teachers, parents and students. If elected as Chief Executive, Mrs Lam said she would immediately inject $5 billion in recurrent expenditure, which could be used to (i) convert contract teachers to permanent positions; (ii) provide financial aid to secondary school leavers who enroll in self financing tertiary institutions; (iii) establish a pay scale for kindergarten teachers; (iv) improve the position and structure of teaching staff in secondary and primary schools; and (v) upgrade software and hardware equipment provided at schools. These initiatives would help create a stable, caring, inspiring and satisfying environment for teaching and learning.
Mrs Lam said: “Education is a vital investment for the advancement of our society. The development of human resources is key to a bright future. However, in recent years, I’ve observed problems in our education policy: the overall philosophy, direction and resource allocation. I propose to carry out a comprehensive review of our education system and would like to invite school teachers, principals, students, parents and other stakeholders to contribute so that we could connect with each other and move forward together to bring about quality education in Hong Kong.”
Mrs Lam pointed out that the amount of education spending as a proportion of total Government spending has fallen to its lowest since the Handover in 1997. And the amount of education spending as a percentage of GDP is also much lower than that in other advanced economies. All relevant stakeholders will be invited to voice their views on how the $5 billion should be allocated and any proposal from the community should not be constrained to the $5 billion figure.
Housing is another priority policy area in Mrs Lam’s election Manifesto. In response to the land shortage problem and the difficulties faced by young home buyers, Mrs Lam proposed a policy facilitating home ownership to enable those who live in Hong Kong to enjoy a content life here.
Mrs Lam explained: “I will re-construct a housing ladder which will allow families at different income levels to purchase their homes. The plan will include an increase in Green Form Subsidised Home Ownership Scheme (offering subsidised flats for public housing applicants whose financial means have improved since residing in public housing). This initiative would also help release more public housing rental units for those on the waiting list. In addition to Home Ownership Scheme flats, I also propose to introduce starter homes at affordable prices for young, or middle class families.”
“However the successful implementation of these new initiatives hinges on whether the community is able to make some difficult decisions to identify land for housing. I propose to immediately establish a new task force led by professionals from fields such as planning, engineering, architectural and environmental to work with members from the local community to explore means to boost land supply for housing, and to facilitate a community-wide engagement exercise. Potential sources of land supply include reclamations outside Victoria Harbour, redevelopment of old districts, development of “brown field” sites in the New Territories and outskirts of Country Parks, as well as land reserves of private developers.
Mrs Lam urged the community to give her feedback on various policy areas and issues.
“My new style of governance is to be inclusive and to embrace civic engagement in policy setting with the ultimate goal of reaching broader community consensus. Views from each and every citizen count as these help me to refine my full Manifesto and to meet expectations. I look forward to joining hands with the people of Hong Kong to build a better future,” Mrs Lam added.