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The Young Reporter

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

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.  

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

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.

Budget 2024: Hong Kong to Assess Talent Visas while Nurturing Local Talents

The Hong Kong government will put more effort into nurturing local talents while also reviewing existing talent schemes to ensure their effectiveness. The government will organise a summit and a conference in May, aiming at promoting the flow of talent in the Greater Bay Area. More than 140,000 applications have been received under the various talent admission schemes, of which more than 100,000 have been approved in the past year, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his budget address today. The Top Talent Scheme, launched in 2022, allows people with incomes higher than HK$2.5 million or degrees from eligible universities to apply for residency without employment. This added an estimated HK$34 billion to the economy, equivalent to 1.2% of Hong Kong's GDP, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said in a public address in February.  Chan said that 60% of immigrant talents were married, and most of them have brought their families to Hong Kong.   Lilian Bao, 42, a former executive of a Beijing-based internet company who emigrated to Hong Kong under the talent scheme, now lives with her daughter in Hung Hom. “I immigrated to Hong Kong for my daughter's future education,” she said. “I want her to enjoy a more international, diverse and independent learning and living experience here.” Some doubt the long-term effectiveness of the talent schemes. Some applicants have not complied with the time frame for coming to Hong Kong and securing employment after receiving approval, said legislator Adrian Ho in a Legco meeting in January. Ho also said that some say the scheme is relatively lenient in the work experience requirement and the vetting and approval criteria, making it possible for some people to exploit the scheme to immigrate to Hong Kong.  “There are rumours that individual applicants have only come to Hong Kong for …

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

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.  

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 …

World’s First Hydrogen-powered Bus Hits the Road

Hong Kong’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker bus hit the road on Sunday, marking Citybus’ s first operation of zero-emission vehicles. The bus, running on Route 20, embarked on its first journey at 11 am from Kai Tak and arrived at  Cheung Sha Wan Terminal in around 40 minutes. The services ended at 8 pm. “The new hydrogen-powered bus has opened a new page of Hong Kong’s transportation development,” said Anson Li, the operations officer of Route 20.  The bus will operate six to eight trips  per day along Route 20 on the “Waterloo Road Line” through Kowloon City during its initial month, then gradually expanding the services to Routes 20A and 22M. The bus operated from and refueled at Hong Kong’s first hydrogen refueling station in the West Kowloon Depot. Li said the hydrogen-powered bus can be fully charged in only 10 to 20 minutes, much faster compared to the two to three hours required by an electric bus.   Over a hundred bus enthusiasts gathered to experience the rides. Among them, Lee Wan, 23, captured the moments of the last bus returning to the Kai Tak Terminal.   After the ride,  Wan said that the hydrogen bus was  more comfortable, as it ran more smoothly and was quieter. Citybus spent HK$ 8 million on producing the hydrogen double-decker bus, which emits only water after transforming the fuel into electricity to power the vehicle. “To me, I think the production costs are too high. It's well worth being rolled out on a large scale if the price can be lowered as the technology improves,” Wan said. Citybus launched the first electric double-decker bus in 2021. The company pledged to operate a complete fleet of zero-emission buses by 2045.      

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

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.  

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

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 …

Budget 2024: Hong Kong to Assess Talent Visas while Nurturing Local Talents

The Hong Kong government will put more effort into nurturing local talents while also reviewing existing talent schemes to ensure their effectiveness. The government will organise a summit and a conference in May, aiming at promoting the flow of talent in the Greater Bay Area. More than 140,000 applications have been received under the various talent admission schemes, of which more than 100,000 have been approved in the past year, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his budget address today. The Top Talent Scheme, launched in 2022, allows people with incomes higher than HK$2.5 million or degrees from eligible universities to apply for residency without employment. This added an estimated HK$34 billion to the economy, equivalent to 1.2% of Hong Kong's GDP, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said in a public address in February.  Chan said that 60% of immigrant talents were married, and most of them have brought their families to Hong Kong.   Lilian Bao, 42, a former executive of a Beijing-based internet company who emigrated to Hong Kong under the talent scheme, now lives with her daughter in Hung Hom. “I immigrated to Hong Kong for my daughter's future education,” she said. “I want her to enjoy a more international, diverse and independent learning and living experience here.” Some doubt the long-term effectiveness of the talent schemes. Some applicants have not complied with the time frame for coming to Hong Kong and securing employment after receiving approval, said legislator Adrian Ho in a Legco meeting in January. Ho also said that some say the scheme is relatively lenient in the work experience requirement and the vetting and approval criteria, making it possible for some people to exploit the scheme to immigrate to Hong Kong.  “There are rumours that individual applicants have only come to Hong Kong for …

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