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Hong Kong leader sets goals on housing, finance, climate in speech

Hong Kong leader sets goals on housing, finance, climate in speech

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is seen on a tv screen as she delivers her annual policy address at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China October 6, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Wednesday (Oct 6) the city was at a new starting point for development under a national security law imposed last year and her priority is to focus on tackling a long-standing housing shortage in the city.

Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have long blamed unaffordable housing in the former British colony for deep-rooted social problems that they say helped fuel anti-government protests in 2019.

"Fortunately, the implementation of the national security law and the improvement to our electoral system have restored safety and stability in society. Hong Kong is now ready again for a new start for economic development," Lam said in her annual policy address.

Beijing imposed the law in June last year. It punishes what authorities broadly define as secession, sedition and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.

Critics say it is being used to crush freedoms promised under the "one country, two systems" formula agreed when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing and the city government say the law is needed to safeguard prosperity and stability and guard against outside interference.

She also said the government will strengthen national security education and raise law-abiding and national security awareness of Hong Kong people, in particular the youth, through different activities and approaches.

Lam's focus in her speech was on ensuring affordable housing to the city's 7.5 million people.

"Providing decent accommodation for all is the primary goal of my housing policy. Noting the public concern on the matter, I reviewed the progress and set out my vision on the issue," she said.

The government said it will develop a new metropolitan area in the city's north for people to live, work and travel. The proposed metropolis will cover the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Boundary Control Points Economic Belt, as well as the deeper hinterlands.

A number of development projects planned for or under planning there are estimated to provide about 350,000 residential units.

Additional land of about 600 hectares could be developed within the Northern Metropolis for residential and industrial use, with an estimated provision of 165,000 to 186,000 residential units.

When fully developed, a total of 905,000 to 926,000 residential units will be available to accommodate about 2.5 million people.

The Hong Kong government has also identified about 350ha of land for 330,000 public housing units for the next 10 years from FY2022/23, to meet the estimated public housing demand in this period.

Private home prices hit a record high in July, buoyed by limited housing supply and large flows of capital from mainland Chinese buyers.

Making housing more affordable has been a priority for all of Hong Kong's leaders since 1997, although the prospect of owning a home is still a distant dream for many.

Even residents with good jobs and salaries have struggled to get on the property ladder.

Last month, Reuters reported that Beijing had given a new mandate to the city's powerful tycoons in a series of meetings this year that they should pour resources and influence into helping solve the housing shortage.

The average waiting time for public housing in Hong Kong has climbed steadily and now stands at more than five-and-a-half years.

Compounding the problem, home prices in former farming areas about an hour's commute from the heart of the financial centre have also surged, buoyed in part by mainland parents eager to educate their children in the city.


On the economic front, the government said it will seek to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and will seek to create more favourable conditions for Hong Kong enterprises to enter the mainland market.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is developing a Commercial Data Interchange, which is expected to begin operating next year, enabling small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to gain access to more convenient financing services.

A climate action plan will also be announced soon, setting out measures on reducing carbon emissions to reach carbon neutrality, with an interim decarbonisation target of reducing carbon emissions by 50 per cent before 2035, as compared with the 2005 level.

The measures include reducing electricity consumption in commercial buildings and residential buildings. The government has also put forward measures with an aim to cease new registration of fuel-propelled and hybrid private cars in 2035 or earlier, and set targets on installing charging facilities.

Source: Reuters/ga


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