Politicians and public figures from a range of backgrounds take turns to have their say on important matters of the day in this personal view programme.
Catch it live: Sunday 8:15am - 8:25am
Podcast: Updated weekly and available after broadcast.
Almost a year and a half has passed since the pandemic started, we are still surviving.
This is definitely not easy. There is virtually no night life in Hong Kong as known a city never sleeps. The last two years have been hard for all the industries especially the F&B. But I know there is nothing more important than being safe and healthy.
I have been through a lot of ups and downs in my 50 years in Hong Kong. The past two years have been the most difficult. Social protests and months of restricted openings left many bars and restaurants struggling to survive, and that’s really something I have not experienced in Lan Kwai Fong. I estimated more than one-third of bars in Hong Kong had been closed. Luckily we are now allowed to operate until 2am under the vaccine bubble. It is a good start, I hope things will continue to go our way. COVID19 changes our lives in so many ways. There have been tremendous changes in the dining industry. Now that people are going out much less often and drink more at home. As a result, delivery business has been booming. Crisis brings changes. We should try to leverage this opportunity because the home dining concept might continue even in the post pandemic period.
Personally I felt much healthier during the pandemic and enjoyed some quality times with my family especially with my grandchildren. Crisis also brings opportunity, especially in Hong Kong, a magical place to make your dream come true. I have never lost confidence in the city I love. We should learn to live with the pandemic and try every way to return our lives to normal. We must be prepared for what will come next.
Hong Kong was stuck for a while. This started with the social movement two years ago when many people took to the streets to air their political grievances and tried to destroy the city. The extreme violence, which I could often recall from these horrible scenes from TV footage, served no good to anyone and complicated the already geo-political situation between the east and the west. Ironically, the pandemic brought an end to all protests. With the passing of the national security law, we finally started to have our peace back. I am also happy to see the change in the electoral system. Hong Kong government will now be able to speed up solving those deep-seated, acute problems, such as the housing issue and land shortage.
We must respect, not criticize because we are Chinese after all. That is something we cannot deny. Patriotism will help unblock the roadblocks that we've faced all these years. Let’s not forget the DNA of Hong Kong, the name Hong Kong is a strong brand in the world and will be stronger if it continues to integrate into the overall development of the nation. Our strength in financial services, backed by its common law system and independent judiciary, makes Hong Kong a global business center, and that has not changed.
The integration of Hong Kong into the Greater Bay Area will be our future. With 72 million people and ranked as the world’s Top 10 in terms of GDP, it is Hong Kong’s solution to stay competitive to be an innovative and financial powerhouse that could surpass rival Silicon Valley and Tokyo Bay Area in a few years. I urge all the young people to look at things with different eyes and see things other people do not see. I always look at things as "not what they are, but what they could be". The GBA shows tremendous promise. Last year, the gross domestic product in the area reached US$1.65 trillion. By 2030, it is likely to have 80 million people and the GDP could grow to US$3.5 trillion. Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are four economic pillars in the area. Every city has its own uniqueness and they can work together as a family but still be competitive. These could present many opportunities for young people in the area in many years to come.
Like almost everyone else in Hong Kong, I look forward to the day of the border open, the travel on high-speed rail and also travel on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. I used to travel every week. But I have not done so for 18 months. I missed travelling. Of course, to make it happen, we must try our best to maintain zero infections in this city. We all should go get vaccinated because it is the best way to protect ourselves and our family and friends. With a higher vaccination rate, it is likely we can catch up with other international cities to welcome more tourists and get back to normal.
Let’s keep our efforts up, be positive, and welcome the new one country two systems with Chinese characteristics. We are always the best. I look forward to seeing you all in Lan Kwai Fong. Hong Kong has such great future for everyone.
Good morning, Hong Kong.
Less than three weeks ago, I delivered my fifth Budget as Financial Secretary. I can tell you they haven’t got any easier, though I do seem to be breaking records. In recent years, Hong Kong has contended with a record-high surplus, a record-high deficit and, now, a record-long economic recession.
Each of those Budgets presented singular challenges. None, however, proved more difficult to realise than this one, given two paramount and deeply conflicting necessities – tackling a $250 billion deficit while ensuring that the people of Hong Kong get some desperately needed relief.
There was also the pandemic-driven certainty of another $100 billion deficit in the coming Budget and, with it, an obligation to increase government revenue.
That, and more, had to be juggled while working to maintain market confidence in our public finance and create fiscal space to cater for unforeseen circumstances. Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves have already dropped sharply these past two years – from the equivalent of 23 months of government expenditure to just 13 months.
This is the background in which the 2021-22 Budget was born – a Budget shaped by clear constraints and critical priorities. I believe it has addressed our most pressing concerns. Allow me to summarise the Budget in four broad areas, beginning with resources.
Reviving the economy and relieving the burden on the people of Hong Kong are at the heart of this year's Budget. That’s why I have proposed counter-cyclical measures costing over $120 billion. Given our financial limitations, a judicious allocation of resources is essential, the underlying goal being to create multiplier effects.
With that in mind, and apart from such one-off relief measures as reducing salaries tax, I announced the issuance of electronic consumption vouchers – $5,000 to each eligible Hong Kong permanent resident and new arrival aged 18 or above.
The vouchers should spur consumption while boosting business. Employing the broadest possible base to stimulate the economy and maintain employment.
For those unable to find employment, I announced the Special Loan Scheme for Individuals, with a 100% guarantee by the Government, to provide a maximum loan of $80,000 per applicant. The Scheme is also available to freelancers.
I’m also allocating $6.6 billion to create some 30 000 jobs for a period of up to 12 months.
To increase revenue and reduce the daunting fiscal deficit, I’m raising the stamp duty on stock transfers – from 0.1% to 0.13%.
No one enjoys paying more taxes, but I have chosen an area that I believe will have the least impact on broader society.
Let’s turn now to our business environment. The good news is that Hong Kong’s vaccination programme has started.
That, I hope, will put the worst of the pandemic behind us, getting businesses back to the business of making money.
Ideally, that reset finds real momentum in the second half of the year. In any case, this is not the time to be retooling our profits and salaries taxes. Which is why I have not raised their respective rate and continue to waive them by 100%, with a ceiling of $10,000 each.
The Budget also outlines measures to support businesses in adopting digital economy. For example, over the next 3 years, I’m allocating $375 million to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to boost its capabilities in organising online activities.
The Government also leads by example in digital transformation. By mid-2022, electronic submissions and e-payment for most government services will be available. Meanwhile, a digital platform for authentication of the identity of businesses is being developed.
We will also continue to stimulate the economy by investing in industries which have huge development potential, in particular financial services and innovation and technology. On the former, the Budget puts bond market, real estate investment trust market, insurance, asset and wealth management, securities, and family office businesses as priority.
Ensuring a green future is the Budget’s third focus. Promoting green and sustainable finance is an important part of it, helping to ensure that our financial services sector remains dynamic and in demand.
To that end, my Budget includes the issuance of Government green bonds totalling $175.5 billion over the next 5 years, along with plans to issue retail green bonds.
A green community goes hand-in-hand with a sustainable economy.
Which is why my Budget offers the city's first road map for electric vehicles. Measures include ending the registration of fuel-driven private cars by 2035.
We're looking at the big picture, too, coming out with a completely updated Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong in just a few months.
I’m setting aside $500 million to enhance our country parks.
Our harbourfront enhancement initiatives will also continue, for the enjoyment of all.
The Government is equally committed to arts and culture. My Budget’s arts expenditure this year will exceed $5.7 billion.
Despite the deficit, education, social welfare and healthcare funding will not be cut. Recurrent funding in these livelihood policy areas this year amounts to over $300 billion, accounting for about 58% of the Government’s total recurrent expenditure.
Which brings me to public finance, the Budget’s fourth main area. A budget must balance immediate needs and long-term vision, while keeping a steady eye on expenditure. Since essential public services will not be tampered with, I need to reduce Government's operating expenditure.
That means no growth in the civil service this year. It means cutting Government's recurrent expenditure by 1% in 2022-23, saving nearly $4 billion.
Down the road, Hong Kong will bounce back. This year, I forecast growth between 3.5% and 5.5%. Between 2022 and 2025, I expect average annual growth of 3.3%.
Hong Kong will continue to reap the outsized benefits of our "One Country, Two Systems" framework. By taking part in national development strategies such as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, there will be bountiful business opportunities for us today – and for generations of Hong Kong people, and businesses, to come.
That, in short order, summarises my 2021-22 Budget. It speaks of the Government’s commitment to finding our way past the pandemic and creating a future that rewards us all.
I wish you the best of health and happiness in the Year of the Ox. Thank you.