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Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 00:38

Carrie Lam vows to increase education spending

By Willa Wu
Carrie Lam vows to increase education spending
Chief Executive hopeful Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reveals more details of her election manifesto at a press conference at the Tsim Sha Tsui District Kai Fong Welfare Association on Monday. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)

HONG KONG – Chief Executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowed on Monday to increase public spending on education and cut taxes for Hong Kong’s small businesses.

She also promised to address the housing issue by providing specific projects to first-time home buyers in Hong Kong.

She made the pledge as she released more details of her proposed policies, a day before the official start of the nomination period of the upcoming CE election.

Lam was briefing the media about the progress of her election platform 10 days after her first election campaign. The former chief secretary said she would immediately increase the government’s recurrent expenditure on education, if elected, by HK$5 billion each year, a 6.7-percent rise from the current level.

She said this investment would go to projects including establishing pay scales for kindergarten teachers, improving staffing levels for elementary and secondary school teachers, and providing short-term contract teachers with permanent posts.

Tens of thousands of enterprises are expected to enjoy a 40 percent reduction in their tax bills

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chief Executive contender

Money will also be injected into improving integrated education and special education. This will help to upgrade school facilities and provide financial support for students taking degree courses at self-financed tertiary institutions, she said.

The proposal originated from the vital role education will play in Hong Kong's future success, explained Lam.

She noted that the current government expenditure on education had hit the lowest point since the handover in 1997, accounting for only 21.5 percent of total government recurrent expenditure.

The former chief secretary said it is a must to use rather than simply save the city's reserves for the best interests of the city.

“Investment in education is investment in the future. It should be stable and sustainable,” Lam said, after reading a letter from a teacher deeply concerned about inadequate support for the education sector.

The CE election hopeful also pledged to conduct an extensive review on the city’s education policy and system. This would include providing resources to nurture young people to become responsible citizens with a sense of national identity and a love for Hong Kong.

Economic development was another focus of Lam’s visions for Hong Kong. In the briefing, Lam offered a new direction for taxation reform. She proposed a two-tier profits tax system, in which profits tax charged on the first HK$2 million of profits would be reduced from the current 16.5 percent to 10 percent.

The system will apply to all companies in the city, big and small. However, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will benefit most, Lam argued. “Tens of thousands of enterprises are expected to enjoy a 40 percent reduction in their tax bills,” she added.

Moreover, to boost the city’s innovation and technology industry, Lam proposed introducing a “super tax deduction”. This would be up to 200 percent for companies which invest in research and development (R&D).

Discussing her housing policy, the veteran civil servant said she would be launching a comprehensive study on land supply. She would also rebuild a “housing ladder” and introduce affordable “Starter's Homes” on top of the Home Ownership Scheme – subsidized sale program of public housing. This aims to provide opportunities for home ownership to families unable to afford to buy in the private sector.

According to Lam, the size of a “Starter's Home” will be set at around 450 square feet. It will only be offered to Hong Kong permanent residents who are first-time buyer.

She invited the public to send her suggestions in the three areas she had touched on, as well as in other policy fields, for her to better complete her election platform. She plans to reveal the final manifesto in early March.

On the same day, Lam met the Federation of Hong Kong Industries on boosting development of the industry. In helping to lift the industry, Lam said the government should position itself as a “facilitator” and “promoter” by encouraging more R&Ds.

The quasi-government organization, made up by 2,800 members, mostly manufacturers, has 18 votes for nominating and selecting CE aspirants.

The nomination period for the city’s top job begins today (Tuesday). A candidate's nomination must be backed by not less than 150 members of the 1,194-strong Election Committee - the city's electoral college which chooses the head of the government.
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