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HK reforms would ease burdens of middle class
Publication Date : 16-01-2014
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed a raft of new social and economic initiatives on Wednesday that can help the government win the support of the "silent majority", widely considered to be the key to forging consensus for political reform.
Speaking at the Legislative Council, Leung proposed a host of measures to help the poor, increase education opportunities to all and vastly increase the supply of housing in coming years to lighten the burden on the middle class.
Households that fall below 60 per cent of the median income will benefit from the new low-income subsidy. Homebuyers can look for increased supply as 150 new parcels of land will add 89,000 residential units in the next five years. The youth can also build brighter futures with new resources in tertiary education and life-planning.
The investment will increase annual expenditures by about HK$20 billion (US$2.6 billion).
"It demonstrates the determination of the incumbent government to tackle the root of the entrenched problems in our society," Leung said, adding that he has faith in the Hong Kong economy to grow in the future and drive public revenue.
One initiative was to create a new Innovation and Technology Bureau to help grow research and development sector in Hong Kong.
With public consultations underway on the setup of the election to select the chief executive in 2017 by universal suffrage, a political analyst and legislator said that the policy address will ease some tension.
Current affairs commentator and Basic Law expert Song Sio-chong said that while political reform requires more deliberation on concrete plans to narrow the differences, policies that benefit the people will certainly reduce some public dissatisfaction and favor the work of political reform.
Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, agreed with the view.
"If the policies are well recognised, people will be more confident of the government and the popularity will rise. Any work will be easier to implement," he said.
The central government has reiterated that any reform proposal must follow the Basic Law provisions and relevant decisions made by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Some of the opposition camp's proposals, however, are likely to fail that constitutional test.
As revealed by some legislators at one of the four dinners hosted by Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor earlier in January, sentiment fanned by pressure groups in Hong Kong has made it harder for politicians to "adjust their positions".
Carrie Lam, who leads the high-level taskforce that runs the consultation, has repeatedly emphasised the need for the "silent majority" in Hong Kong to make themselves heard for the milestone election of 2017.
Hong Kong's grassroots generally welcomed the policies and initiatives unveiled in Leung Chun-ying's policy address.
Mrs Lai, a mother of three, was impressed with the low-income allowance and the increased amount of vouchers for pre-primary education.
"Having an extra of HK$1,000 to HK$2,000 a month is useful to support our expenses. I can buy more nutritious food for my children and don't have to worry about not being able to make ends meet," Lai said.
Chan, in his late 70s, is interested in nursing homes run by Hong Kong NGOs on the mainland. I don't mind residing on the mainland as long as the services and facilities are up to standard. My only concern is that my children may not come and visit me regularly," Chan said.
Ng, in his mid-40s, is happy to see more low-income families get help with their costs of living, even though the policy address did not provide many benefits for him.
US$1 = HK$7.75