The government has pledged to support the needy in the 2019-2020 budget announcement. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po addressed the Legislative Council yesterday in the budget address, informing Hong Kong of the state of public finance in the past and coming year.
Youth-oriented measures include a one-off HK$2,500 grant to students in need; paying exam fees for the 2020 HKDSE test-takers; and HK$200 million to expand the apprenticeship scheme for the construction industry. He also pledged to set up a HK$200 million Urban Forestry Support Fund which will include initiatives to encourage students to pursue studies in arboriculture, roll out arboriculture and horticulture trainee programmes, and provide more training and internship opportunities for new recruits.
The government will also add HK$250 million to the Hong Kong Athletes Fund to support student athletes, and provide cash incentives for retired full-time athletes.
In addition, Chan announced a HK$16 billion provision for UGC-funded universities to update their R&D facilities, and an additional HK$20 billion in research grants.
He also promised HK$310 million in funding for two social workers to be posted at all secondary schools in the coming academic year.
The budget includes a new HK$500 million scheme, the IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools Programme, to be implemented over the coming three school years. The proposal is for each beneficiary secondary school to be granted HK$1 million to buy information technology (IT) equipment and services, and organise more relevant extracurricular activities to deepen students’ knowledge of IT concepts such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and big data.
Childcare centres and kindergartens will also be covered under social work services, with HK$990 million allocated to a pilot scheme launched this month.
The budget expects a surplus of approximately HK$58.7 billion, bringing the fiscal reserves to HK$1.2 trillion, while projections for economic growth for the city in 2019 are 2-3 per cent.