Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah delivered the 2016 budget speech yesterday. He started and ended his speech by talking about the Mong Kok disturbances and increased tensions in society, that have made Hong Kong a “strange and alien” place to him.
The government will continue to arrange internship opportunities for students. Future Leaders in Finance Internship, a summer internship programme, will be expanded this year under the government’s subsidies to send 40 local university students on internship programmes in financial institutions in Beijing. Further, 30 local university students will be subsidised to join an exchange scheme in Shanghai this year.
A subsidy scheme of HK$960 million launched this academic year for students pursuing self-financing undergraduate programmes in selected disciplines, including health care, architecture and engineering, testing and certification, creative industries, logistics, and tourism and hospitality.
In fashion and design, the government will set up a resource centre to provide technical training and support for young designers. In the film industry, the government will inject HK$200 million in the Film Development Fund (FDF) to promote local filmmaking and encourage young people to join the industry.
Tsang points out that local Cantonese films is a key component of local culture and an additional HK$20 million will be injected into the FDF to subsidise distribution and publicity of locally-made Cantonese films.
Tsang said Hong Kong needed to review the tourist industry’s development strategy, and look at diversified high-value services, as well as how to increase visitor numbers. The government will embark on a pilot scheme involving food trucks this year to increase the number of designated spaces for the food trucks to 16.
Salaries tax and tax under personal assessment will also be reduced by 75 per cent for 2015/2016. This will be capped at HK$20,000. The amount you are eligible to receive will be deducted from next year’s tax bill. This proposal will benefit 1.96 million taxpayers and reduce government revenue by HK$17 billion.
He has earmarked HK$50 billion to improve the retirement protection for the elderly in need. “Our society is ageing, and this has far-reaching implications for our future public finances,” says Tsang. And he points out that any retirement protection scheme must be financially sustainable to avoid shifting the significant retirement protection expenses to future generations. He hopes society will keep an open mind and work together to explore sustainable plans for Hong Kong.
Speaking to the media after Tsang’s speech, executive council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said he was touched by Tsang’s concluding remarks. “We’re about the same age and have lived through the same tough times [and challenges and this city has faced]. I think he was speaking for a lot of Hong Kong people who have walked a similar road. This is a cautious but good budget. Tsang does his best to use reserves to help the elderly and low-income families.”
Chinese University’s Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, Pang Lai-kwan, said the local film industry would welcome the government’s investment in the production of Cantonese films. “It’s great Tsang highlighted the important position of Cantonese and promoted locally-produced Cantonese films. Some people, especially in Guangdong and Hong Kong, have a different taste in films. It would be a good start to serve the local audience,” says Pang.