On February 22, 2023, the Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Mr. Paul Chan, delivered the annual Budget Speech for the fiscal year 2023-24. The speech outlined the government's plans and initiatives to promote economic growth, enhance livelihoods, and support different sectors of the community. Here are the key takeaways from the speech:
Economic Recovery and Development:
The Financial Secretary highlighted the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but emphasized that Hong Kong's economy has shown signs of resilience and recovery. The government will continue to support businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic, while also investing in infrastructure and promoting innovation to drive long-term economic growth.
Fiscal Reserves and Public Finances:
The government has maintained a sound fiscal position since although the current fiscal year is projected to have a deficit of HK$139.8 billion due to pandemic related measures, the fiscal reserves are forecast to be HK$817.3 billion by the end of March 2023, providing a solid foundation for future public spending.
Support for Businesses and Employment:
To support businesses and employment, the government will provide a series of measures, including tax reductions, rent and fee waivers, and financial assistance to specific sectors. The government will also launch a new wage subsidy scheme to support employers in retaining staff and creating job opportunities.
Housing and Land Supply:
The government remains committed to addressing the housing shortage in Hong Kong and will continue to increase land supply through various means, such as reclamation and the development of brownfield sites. The government will also provide various initiatives to support first-time homebuyers and improve the quality of public housing.
Social Welfare and Healthcare:
The government will provide additional resources to support social welfare services, including the introduction of a new "social security net" to provide assistance to low-income households. The government will also increase funding for healthcare services and infrastructure, including the construction of a new public hospital and the expansion of medical services in different districts.
Innovation and Technology:
The government will continue to promote innovation and technology as a key driver of economic growth and will provide funding and support for research and development, technology startups, and digital transformation initiatives. The government will also establish a new innovation and technology research institute to enhance Hong Kong's research capabilities.
Environment and Sustainability:
The government will implement a range of initiatives to promote environmental protection and sustainability, including the expansion of renewable energy sources, the development of waste management and recycling infrastructure, and the introduction of new environmental regulations and standards.
In conclusion, the 2023-24 Budget Speech outlined the government's plans to support economic recovery, enhance livelihoods, and promote sustainable development in Hong Kong. The government will continue to invest in infrastructure, support businesses and employment, provide social welfare and healthcare services, promote innovation and technology, and protect the environment. These initiatives reflect the government's commitment to ensuring a better future for the people of Hong Kong.