Chief Executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam on Wednesday morning delivered the 2021 policy address, outlining concrete plans to address deep-seated problems such as the housing shortage and to better integrate into the national development.
Chief Executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam attends a press conference in Hong Kong, south China, Oct. 6, 2021. Carrie Lam on Wednesday morning delivered the 2021 policy address, outlining concrete plans to address deep-seated problems such as the housing shortage and to better integrate into the national development. (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)
The policy address, the fifth of its kind since Lam took office in 2017, proposed a development strategy to build the northern part of Hong Kong into a new metropolitan area, which, given full development, is expected to provide up to 926,000 residential units for 2.5 million people.
Lam also stressed leveraging the central government's favorable policies and giving full play to Hong Kong's unique strengths, including its status as a global financial hub, to bring continuous impetus to the local economy.
The implementation of the national security law in the HKSAR and the improvements to Hong Kong's electoral system have restored safety and stability in society, and Hong Kong is now ready again for a new start for economic development, Lam noted.
NEW NORTHERN METROPOLIS, NEW HOMES
The northern part of Hong Kong is expected to be developed into a metropolitan area ideal for people to live, work and travel, Lam said when delivering the policy address at a Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting, noting that more land resources should be created for residential use and the development of industries.
With an area of 300 square km, the proposed metropolis covers from the west to the east of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Boundary Control Points Economic Belt, as well as the deeper hinterlands.
Given full development of the entire northern metropolis, a total of 905,000 to 926,000 residential units, including the existing 390,000 residential units in Yuen Long District and North District, will be available to accommodate a population of about 2.5 million.
The total number of jobs in the metropolis will increase substantially from 116,000 at present to about 650,000, including 150,000 innovation and technology industry-related jobs, Lam said.
Development of the northern metropolitan area will be of great help to the long-term development of Hong Kong, and expand the city's development opportunities, said Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People's Party, when commenting on the policy address.
Hong Kong will take multi-pronged measures to increase the supply of residential units and land to address the chronic housing shortage.
"We have identified about 350 hectares of land to produce some 330,000 public housing units for the coming 10-year period, slightly higher than the figure announced last year, and can meet the estimated public housing demand of around 301,000 units in the coming 10-year period," Lam said.
In terms of public rental housing (PRH), Lam said although the overly long waiting time for PRH allocation is worrying, public housing production in the five-year tenure of the current-term HKSAR government will in fact reach 96,500 units, an increase of 30,000 units compared to the previous five-year period.
On private housing, including railway property developments, the HKSAR government will strive to secure approximately 170 hectares of land in the coming 10 years, and make available to the market sites for the production of about 100,000 units through land sales or putting up railway property developments for tender, according to the policy address.
Calling the policy address proactive and enterprising, LegCo member Martin Liao Cheung-kong said the policy address establishes a 20-30 year development framework for Hong Kong and will help make up for the missed opportunities, particularly in the areas of innovation and culture, over the past 20 years. He said he expects the HKSAR government to have the political courage and determination to implement the land and housing policies.
STRONGER INTEGRATION, STRONGER ADVANTAGES
The chief executive said Hong Kong's economy has always been closely intertwined with the development of the country.
Efforts will be made to expand the channels for the two-way flow of cross-boundary renminbi funds and developing offshore renminbi products and tools, Lam said, citing measures to improve the demand for issuance and trading of renminbi securities and to allow stocks traded via the southbound trading under the Stock Connect scheme to be denominated in renminbi.
The HKSAR government will support the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) in promoting cooperation with the Guangzhou Futures Exchange in financial product development related to carbon emission trading, Lam said, expecting a stronger role of Hong Kong as a regional green and sustainable finance hub.
Hong Kong will also explore with the mainland the formation of a one-stop sandbox network to facilitate financial institutions and information and technology companies from Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to test cross-boundary fintech applications, she added.
For Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability, Lam said that each and every Hong Kong resident should have a more comprehensive understanding of "one country, two systems," safeguard national security with greater loyalty, and take pride in the development of the country and in their Chinese identity, while striving hard to bring Hong Kong's unique strengths into full play to better integrate into the overall national development.