The DAB feels that this year’s budget makes moderate advances from a stable base. The budget not only facilitates policy implementation but also addresses the needs of the underprivileged and middle class in a proactive manner. With a budget surplus of over 90 billion HKD, the budget has earmarked a large amount of policies to relieve the financial burdens of the grassroot and middle classes. In terms of developing the economy, the budget is also in line with the policy address and will allot financial resources to help develop the economy.
In terms of relieving the financial burden on ordinary residents, the budget has allotted around 35 billion HKD worth of tax breaks and short term relief measures. The DAB feels that many of our suggestions have been proactively addressed. On top of what the previous governments have done including the reduction of salary tax, waiving rates for a whole year, providing an extra month of OAA support to eligible seniors and doing the same with the OALA and the Disability Allowance, this year the government also agreed to increase the marginal tax band of the salary tax, raising the bracket from $40000 to $45000. The budget also extends the period for the home loan interest tax break to 20 years while increasing the limit for self-education expense deductions from $80000 to $100000. However, we still see that the budget has not given rent subsidies for public housing tenants, and has not exempted rates payable for retired seniors who own their own lodging. We are disappointed that these two suggestions were not taken up. At the same time, we hope that the Community Care Fund can again provide support for “N have-not” families.
In terms of improving the standard of living, the budget has the budget has also adopted many of our proposals, such as providing funds of 30 billion HKD to elderly care and rehabilitation services for disabled persons, while also subsidizing property owners to renovate their buildings. It was also willing to consider providing tax exemptions to residents who buy medical products set in their health insurance. However, the budget did not raise the asset limit of seniors who are eligible for the OALA and a high tier of assistance nor did it lower the age of eligibility for receiving the OAA without a means test to 65 years of age, and the DAB expresses its disappointment in these developments. At the same time, we will continue to press the government to address environmental, traffic, and Chinese medicine in its policy direction, in the future we will continue to urge the government to set up a conservation fund and make a proper financial commitment to develop Chinese medicine hospitals. We also urge the government to enact the third wave of “Operation Building Bright” and to revoke the asset limits in the “Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners”. We also wish to set up a “Hillside Public Works Fund” and construct escalators and elevators in hillside areas as soon as possible.
When it comes to developing the economy, the budget has announced 10 billion HKD to support technological innovation in Hong Kong and increase the amount of commercially available land. The DAB agrees with this proposal. In terms of supporting SMEs, the new budget extended the time frame for the “SME Financing Guarantee Scheme”. It also exempts hotels, restaurants and travel agencies from paying license fees. The DAB is pleased with these developments, however we feel that the bureau should go even further, by replacing the “SME Financing Guarantee Scheme” with the proposed “Special Loan Guarantee Scheme”. Speaking in the long term, we urge the government to set up an industrial development fund and through tax breaks, land use policy and immigration policy to attract and promote new industries to develop and diversify and improve our industrial structure. We also reiterate, just like last year, the budget did not allot enough resources to the training of new workers and innovators for the tech sector. We re-emphasize that students should be able to learn about technology from primary school on, and to ensure that there are enough facilities and teachers to carry this out.
News Contact: DAB Chairperson Starry Lee 7770-0820