Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor presented her maiden policy address at the Legislative Council at 11am today.
Banking on her theme of “hope and happiness”, she sketched out in greater detail her vision for the city for the coming year as well as the rest of her five-year term, which began 111 days ago.
Lam described the policy address as "resolute, innovative and trying to be meticulous".
She repeated President Xi Jinping’s remarks made during his visit in July that “One Country, Two Systems” policy was workable and the best path for Hong Kong. “We have the responsibility to say no to any act or behaviour that could harm national security.”
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Lam also said she will make better use of the over HK$1 trillion in fiscal reserves to invest in the future and pledged to spend 1.5 per cent of GDP on research and development, up from the current 0.7 per cent.
Lam addressed the city’s housing crisis early in her speech, and spent almost 10 minutes of her 40 minute speech on the hot issue. Suggestions she mentioned include optimising use of idle government properties, working with the Urban Renewal Authority to offer units in older buildings, and exploring the feasibility of pre-fabricated modular housing.
The government will also launch a "Starter Homes" plan targeted at young families whose income is too high for the Home Ownership Scheme yet cannot afford a flat in the private market. Income limits will be HK$34,000 for singletons and HK$68,000 for families.
She also pointed out that the government is willing to invest more to achieve "zero waiting time" for services including pre-school rehabilitation services for children with special needs and appropriate home and community care services for the elderly in need of support.
As she promised to connect with young people during her election campaign, Lam strived to address youth concerns in education, career and housing, and encouraged them to participate in politics as well as discuss and debate about public policy.
"Education is the key to nurturing talent and the government's expenditure on education is the most meaningful investment for our future development," she noted.
Lam had proposed during her election campaign an immediate increase of recurrent education expenditure by HK$5 billion a year. She also announced an air-conditioning grant for public schools to provide a more “comfortable teaching and learning environment” in hot weather.
The government will also appoint more young people to various government committees in areas such as youth development, IT and the environment. They hope to recruit young people aspiring to pursue a career in policy research as well as policy and project coordination. "We want the voices of young people be heard at senior levels of the government," says Lam.
Lam told Legco that her vision is for all those who live in Hong Kong to be hopeful and feel happiness, which requires a society that is united, harmonious and caring. And that society, she says, is why Hong Kong has been successful for more than half a century.
"The Hong Kong spirit, or what we call Lion Rock spirit, has not been eroded...the best of HK is yet to come," says Lam.
The entire policy address is now publicly available online.