Down-to-earth Budget to care for people's livelihood and boost economic growth

2013-03-08 04:25:01  来源:大公报

    The new-term government has unveiled its maiden Budget. The new Budget covers, more comprehensively than ever before, various pillar industries and talks about infrastructure construction at some length . As such it can eye on solving economic problems in the long run, which is essential to stabilising Hong Kong's economy. Hardship relief measures it proposes also take care of the short-term needs of the grass-roots and middle class. The whole Budget gives no big surprises but strives to tackle practical problems in a down-to-earth manner. The Budget on the whole is on the conservative side but occasionally some "bright points" can also be noticed, such as the creative idea of providing funds to help universities transform technology research outcomes into production. On the whole, this Budget is forward-looking but also with short-term measures. It should be received positively.

    A focus on this Budget is the huge surplus in the 2012/13 fiscal year due to higher-than-expected incomes from revenue from land premium and stamp duty revenue from trading in property and stock markets. How to make use of such a huge fiscal surplus has been a public concern. But as our "God of Fortune" said, at present Hong Kong still faces many challenges and peripheral economies remain unstable, therefore Hong Kong must speed up economic restructuring. The Budget must, on the one hand, take care of the needs of people's livelihood and, on the other hand, have new ideas to boost economic development. As such it cannot give away money blindly. As a matter of fact, there are similar views among the public with some people having given their early warnings in this regard. In the Budget, besides proposing some one-off relief measures, the "God of Fortune" indeed puts forward some new ideas including further developing Hong Kong as an international shipping hub, expanding the theme parks, nurturing emerging industries such as visual arts, so as to pursue diverse economic development.

    One year ago, Hong Kong's economic environment was still affected by the euro debts crisis and it was expected to have a deficit of several billion dollars in the 2012/13 fiscal year. But since then, EU, US and Japan has successively enhanced their quantitative easing (QE) measures, enabling their economies and financial market to stabilise temporarily. Excessive capital has pushed global stock markets and prices of assets to go up sharply. Active trading in Hong Kong's stock and property markets has brought in rich stamp duty revenue, making a major contribution to the $64.9 billion fiscal surplus. However, the prospects for global economy remain unclear, and there is a possibility for Hong Kong's economy to reverse. Sharp fluctuation could happen in the stock and property markets, and there is no guarantee that rich stamp duty revenue could be collected again. Under the principle of prudent management of public finances, it is a necessary move to give away "candies" moderately. The 11 one-off relief measures - including waiving or reducing rates and salary tax - as "timely actions to address the pressing needs of the community" involve $33 billion, much less than last year's nearly $80 billion. For instance, the reduction of salary tax this time is lowered to $10,000. If the spending in this regard maintained at last year's level, more applause believably would have been won with a bit more money spent┅ In any case, this time, the government takes special care of the interests of people in need of support but who do not benefit from any current government relief measures, injecting funds into the Community Care Fund to help them. This measure is especially praiseworthy.

    As a matter of fact, Hong Kong's economic growth was only 1.4% last year, and is forecasted to be between 1.5% and 3.5% this year. Hong Kong must speed up its economic restructuring. Consolidating existing pillar industries and developing emerging industries brook no delay. In face of such a situation, the Budget proposes to continue promoting the development of the four pillar industries, i.e., trading and logistics, tourism, financial services and business and professional services. Besides setting concrete development directions, it also proposes to further develop Hong Kong as an international shipping hub. A study will be conducted again on the proposal of constructing Container Terminal 10, which had been discussed before but then shelved. All in all, having in mind for "developing the economy and increasing employment, investing in education and optimising human capital, investing in infrastructure, stabilising land supply, caring for people's livelihood, and embracing the challenges ahead", the Budget fully shows the new-term government's commitment and determination to develop Hong Kong with one heart.

    We hope the government would input more resources to search for new growth "pivots" and increase its strength to push economic development up another notch . This is more constructive than simply giving away "candies". We also hope the government could integrate efforts of various sectors and strive to fulfill the plans and goals set in the Budget as soon as possible. As long as Hong Kong could keep its economy grow steadily, incomes of citizens in various sectors naturally will also increase.

    28 February 2013

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