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The Young Reporter

Hong Kong Budget Unveils HK$ 1.09 billion to Boost Tourism, Reinventing the City's Brand Image

  • 2024-02-29

Financial Secretary Mr. Paul Chan released the budget proposal today. Photo source: Sing Tao Daily. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said he would allocate an additional HK$1.09 billion to support the tourism industry, including monthly fireworks displays and drone performances on Victoria Harbour, revitalising the nightly harbour light show and promoting immersive and in-depth experiences such as "Citywalk."  The plan aims to effectively use the city's waterfront resources and enhance local tourism activities to attract visitors and improve Hong Kong's economy while reshaping its brand image. The Tourism Board also intends to introduce dining, retail and entertainment facilities in suitable locations along the Victoria Harbour waterfront to provide convenience and enhance the visitor experience, Chan said. “We want to promote Hong Kong as a hospitable, people-focused city,” Chan said in the budget address. The government is also launching initiatives such as the Sai Kung Hoi Art Festival to "soft sell" Hong Kong.  However, Tang Wing Tung, 20, a university student and hiking enthusiast, said, "As a hiking enthusiast, these projects already have some level of promotion within Hong Kong itself. I believe the government's so-called 'soft sell' approach will have little impact," she said. The budget highlights initiatives to promote arts, culture, and creative industries to boost tourism, including an East-meets-West Centre for International Cultural Exchange and introducing a blueprint for developing arts, culture, fashion and creative industries. Funding injections of around HK$1.4 billion and HK$2.9 billion will support film, arts and design projects, including the annual Hong Kong Fashion Design Week. Local vocational college VTC  held a fashion show in West Kowloon in October 2023, though Christian Dior postponed its highly anticipated March fashion show on Feb 26.  The government has also launched the Signature Performing Arts Programme Scheme to establish long-running, representative local performing arts programs. They aim …

Culture & Leisure

Budget 2024: Film Development Fund receives highest government investment since 2007

The government will inject $1.4 billion into the Film Development Fund in 2024, the highest investment record in 17 years, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in the most recent budget speech on Wednesday. The Hong Kong Film Development Council has approved a total of $1billion in 2023, of which $134 million has been allocated for the Film Production Financing Scheme, accounting for 12.4% of the total investment. “We feel excited about the investment in film. In the past, government investment had helped many new directors and talents who lacked funding to fulfill opportunities to present their works,”  a spokesman of Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association said. During the 2023 Christmas period, Hong Kong cinema box office receipts were only $19.6 million, more than a 40% drop from last year and is the lowest in 20 years. “The box office increase in 2022 may be related to the delay of the release of foreign films due to the epidemic,” Rose Lu, 27, a film critic said. “The Hong Kong film market is small, the government should spend more money in promoting Hong Kong movies overseas and mainland rather than importing many overseas films,” said Lu. Hong Kong Legislative Council amended the Film Censorship Ordinance on October 27, 2021, which requires self-censorship and monitoring of film making, and re-examination of some subjects involving political factors, large scale and niche films. “It is hard for many directors in Hong Kong to do some sensitive topics, because it may not pass the film audit. This makes the Hong Kong film market less glamorous,” said Lu. People expect this money will promote diversity in Hong Kong movies and provide financial support for the film industry. “The government should support more shooting studios and try to have a new agreement about the renting cost …

Society

Budget 2024: Government to expand cross-boundary data flow and services

    Hong Kong will expand cross-boundary data flow to help Hong Kong and mainland residents in the Greater Bay Area access public services without needing to cross the border. This month, the government announced it launched self-service kiosks in Shenzhen and Guangzhou where Hong Kong citizens can apply for more than 50 government services in Hong Kong. The kiosks aim to streamline government services, promote investment in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and boost satisfaction for businesses operating cross-boundary, according to a Press Release from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Agency. Echo Lee, 21, from Guangzhou and studying in Hong Kong, said this policy is convenient but he is concerned about the leakage of personal information. Ethan Deng, 19, from Shenzhen and studying in Hong Kong, said he hadn't paid much attention to this policy before and thinks it will be more convenient to apply for documents, especially identity documents. Zong Can, 25, a cross-border worker from Shenzhen, said this policy will help bring the two places closer together, especially for residents like her who live close to Hong Kong. Denny Deng, 26, a Hong Kong resident who works in insurance, said this policy should be helpful to the exchange of enterprises between the two places as well as the development of business, which is conducive to the flow of capital between the two places. "In the future, I hope that we can use cross-border processing to solve more livelihood issues, such as driving licenses, tax, healthcare interoperability. Because Hong Kong is a place where privacy is very important, how to get the authorization of the person to communicate between the two places or successful cases will make the whole community have confidence," said Chau Man-kong, Executive Director of the School of Applied Policy Studies and Educational Futures …

Business

Budget 2024: Stamp duty scrapped to stimulate sluggish property market

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: XIA Fan、ZHAO RuntongEdited by: Junzhe JIANG、Ji Youn Lee
  • 2024-02-28

All “spicy measures” for housing will be cancelled, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his latest budget speech on Wednesday, referring to stamp duties paid on property purchases. Known as “laat ziu” in Cantonese, spicy measures meant locals buying a second property, non-local residents and companies had to pay up to 7.5% of the original property prices, which was cut from 15% in October 2023. Additionally, people who wished to resell their property in two years had to pay up to 7.5% of the resale price.  “These stamp duties are unnecessary for the current economic and market situation,” said Chan. Leung Ka-ki, 37, a salesman at Festival Walk, is happy to see the stamp duties gone as it helps him save money to buy a property as soon as he can. “People didn’t buy properties because they had to pay the stamp duty previously,” said Kelvin Leung, senior property consultant of Midland Realty, “The cancelled cooling measures will greatly attract investors from home and around the world to buy properties in Hong Kong.” Property sales increased slightly after the government halved the stamp duty in  October, though sales have not yet reached the high earlier in 2023.  Chong Tai-leung, executive director of Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance, also predicts an increase in property sales. “The immediate impact of the cancellation will be the increased volume of property transactions,” Chong said. However, buyers will still compare the return of depositing the same amount in the bank, Chong said.   Chong said the effectiveness in boosting the property market in the long term may not be that effective, as the main force driving the market down is the interest rate, which the government cannot control. Andre Wong, 45, who owns an apartment in Kowloon Tong, said he would …

Society

Budget 2024 Key Takeaways: Careful balance of revenue and deficit to continue

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: AU YEUNG Jim、AO Wei Ying VinciEdited by: Juncong SHUAI
  • 2024-02-28

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po delivered the 2024-2025 Budget speech on Wednesday, announcing policies to strive for high-quality development while sustaining a solid economy. Top the list is the cancellations of property cooling measures, with Special Stamp Duty, Buyers’ Stamp Duty and New Residential Stamp Duty scrapped with immediate effect. For the coming fiscal year, the total government expenditure will increase by about 6.7% to HK$776.9 billion, while the total government revenue is estimated to be HK$633 billion. Chan expects that there will be a deficit of HK$48.1 billion for the year, and fiscal reserves will decrease to HK$685.1 billion. Here are the key takeaways of this year’s budget plan.  

Health & Environment

Budget 2024: Monthly fireworks may have limited effect on tourism but cause air pollution

Fireworks will be set off every month over Victoria Harbour in the coming year along with drone displays to attract visitors, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in today’s budget speech.  Chan said last year's fireworks displayed along the waterfront in Victoria Harbour, Wan Chai and West Kowloon were all well received. "We will make full use of these valuable resources to provide a more engaging and diverse experience for the public and visitors,” he said. "Regular events are important to tourism," said Professor Chong Tai-leung, 55, executive director of Chinese University’s Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance. "Monthly fireworks displays are a great way to attract foreign visitors from far and wide." “There are obviously more people visiting Hong Kong, especially on the second day of the Lunar New Year when people gather at Victoria Harbor to admire the fireworks,” said Peter Lo, 62, an electrical engineer, “it almost felt like the traffic flow before the pandemic.” But Lo does not believe that Hong Kong's tourism industry will bring sustained appeal. "There are only a few interesting attractions in Hong Kong, the fireworks won’t attract tourists for a second time."  "If it happens every month, I can choose a time that suits me better and avoid the severe rush during the New Year," said Cao Kailuo, 21, a mainland college student who plans to visit Hong Kong during his vacation. Sara Leung, chair of the Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees General Union, told RTHK that she is not optimistic about fireworks and drone shows because many nearby areas are hosting similar events and visitors will lose the novelty.  "In fact, the government doesn't need to spend a lot of money on fireworks displays, they usually get sponsors to host them," Chong said. "For example, last year's …

Society

Budget 2024: Government to increase Care Service Vouchers and Digital Support for Elderly

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: MAO Anqi、LAI Uen LingEdited by: James Ezekiel Kalaw MODESTO
  • 2024-02-28

The government will increase the number of vouchers to help elderly people afford in-home care and elderly care centres as well as provide funding for the elderly to learn digital skills. However, local social workers say this fails to address many problems for the elderly. The number of Community Care Service Vouchers, which help the elderly age in place,  will increase to 11,000 at a cost of about HK$900 million, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in the budget address this morning. From the second quarter of this year, the number of Residential Care Service Vouchers, which help the elderly pay for services in care centres, will increase to 5,000, involving an annual expenditure of about $1.44 billion overall. The government plans to set aside $100 million from the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund to help people aged 60 or above get equipped with digital skills and technical support. At least 50,000 elderly individuals are expected to benefit from the first round of projects, which are expected to begin at the end of 2024. Tony Fung, 30, a social worker at a district health centre in East Kowloon, said the plans mentioned this year are not in line with real problems elderly residents face. “At the centre, we are already teaching our elderly residents how to use smartphones and computers. I hope that the government can help in transforming service centres and update their services,” he said. Fung said the government should assess the waiting time for admissions into elderly care homes and increase expenditure where necessary. The average waiting time for a bedridden person to be admitted to an elderly care home takes around 18 months, Fung said. Cindy Chan, 40, is a social worker at a district health centre in East Kowloon. A 15-year veteran, she hopes …

Society

Budget 2024: Government to support STEM education with more funding to primary schools

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: NG Natasha Goa Sheng、WONG Hong NiEdited by: KONG Tsz Yuen
  • 2024-02-28

The government is going to put more money into promoting STEM education in public schools and universities in Hong Kong, the Financial Secretary said in his budget address this morning.   An additional HK$134 million for the provision of subsidies of up to HK$300,000 will be available for each publicly-funded primary school in the next two academic years, Paul Chan Mo-po said. The government will also continue to support STEM internships for university students, a program launched in 2020. Cyrus Wu, 19, an engineering student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said he is personally interested in internships in IT-related industries and it will be very helpful for his future career. “Introducing STEM education helps prepare students for the future. It also allows them to understand and participate in the ever-changing world and provides critical thinking skills for students,” said Li Suen Huen, 20, a university student majoring in computer science.   Fong Kin Lung, 48, a secondary school teacher of information and communication technology said, STEM education for primary school students will bring advantages. “Many secondary schools require students to have problem-solving and logical abilities. Therefore, I believe increasing the budget for primary schools’ STEM education will have positive impacts,” said Fong. Justin Lai, 22, practice teacher for two secondary schools, hopes the government will give a better guideline to use this money in the future.   “If the government or stakeholders could explain the guidelines for interdisciplinary cooperation more clearly, it would make it easier for us educators to teach STEM to my students,” he said. “The most important thing about STEM knowledge is how students can integrate knowledge from different disciplines, study, think about problems, analyze and disassemble it by themselves,” Lai said.

Budget 2024: Two‑tiered standard rates regime and decreased reduction of salaries tax

  • 2024-02-28

The salaries of taxpayers earning $5 million dollars or more a year will be split into two salary tax bands starting from 2024/25, Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mau-po proposed in today’s budget speech. Their first HK$5 million will be subject to the standard rate of 15 % and any amount exceeding that will be taxed at 16%. “It is expected that the revenue of the Hong Kong Government will increase by about HK$910 million a year as a result,” Chan said. Mak Sui-choi, associate professor of the Department of Accountancy, Economics and Finance of Hong Kong Baptist University said the measure proposed is to aid the government’s financial difficulties. “The two-tiered standard rates regime will not affect the daily life of wealthy people and they account for only around 0.06% of Hong Kong’s population, which will not affect foreign talents to come and work in Hong Kong, ” Mak said. Au Yeung Tat-chor, assistant professor of sociology at Lingnan University said although it makes sense in terms of fiscal fairness to collect more taxes from those with higher annual salaries, it is not a long-term solution for the government to rely on this tax for the bulk of its revenue. “The best solution is to fundamentally change the local salary and income structure, rather than relying on such a policy,” he said. Meanwhile, Chan announced the reduction of salaries tax and tax under personal assessment for the year of assessment 2023-24 by 100%, subject to a ceiling of $3,000. That will benefit about 2.06 million taxpayers.  In his speech, Chan mentioned that the basic allowance for children and newborns will remain unchanged at $130,000, unchanged from last year. Chan said that the government had taken into account the economic pressure still faced by some industries and the public, as well …

Politics

Budget 2024: Hong Kong government extends subsidy for people waiting for public housing

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: CHAN Wing Yiu、KIM SeojoonEdited by: Aruzhan ZEINULLA
  • 2024-02-28

People waiting for public housing will continue to receive monthly government subsidies while the government continues to build new public housing units, Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po said in the budget address today. The cash allowance trial scheme is available to applicants who have been on the waiting list for public rental housing for more than three years. The subsidy amount for individuals is HK$1,300 per month. The average waiting time for public housing in Hong Kong is 5.6 years, according to the Hong Kong Housing Authority. Transitional housing remains insufficient despite 21,000 new units built last year. Many waiting for public housing are forced to live in cramped subdivided flats, the Society for Community Organization reported in a recent survey. Transitional housing is difficult to get, some public housing applicants said. Chan, 67, who declined to use his full name, said he has been rejected for transitional housing twice. “I hope the government can pay more attention to the elderly living in subdivided flats. They are having a hard time,” Chan said. Tse, 59, who declined to use his full name, said he currently resides in a hotel in Yau Ma Tei and pays HK$3,000 a month for rent. Despite being unemployed and receiving government assistance, he cannot get transitional housing due to a shortage of units for single individuals, he said. SOCO has implemented various projects to provide temporary housing to low income people, in areas such as Chai Wan, Tin Hau and Tai Po. “The greatest housing problem is that everything is expensive, including rent, water, and electricity,” said Sze Lai-shan, the deputy director of SOCO. Sze said that extending the monthly subsidies for public housing applicants is positive. Sze said that cash subsidies can be specifically directed toward residents living in subdivided units.