Less talk, more action expected from Lam

Top News | Phoenix Un 10 Oct 2017

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's first policy address - set to begin at 11am tomorrow at the Legislative Council chambers - will just be about an hour long as she is expected to read a digest of the full text.

She will not read the policy address word for word - it contains some 300 paragraphs and should take three hours to read - but is expected to give brief summaries of her priorities for the next five years.

The short and sweet speech will mean Lam will break from a tradition that goes back to the pre-handover days and carried over by her three post- handover predecessors when the city's leaders would read out the policy blueprint.

It is expected Lam's speech will emphasize a two-tier profits tax system as well as funding for health care and services for the elderly and set out new initiatives to address housing problems.

Her immediate predecessor Leung Chun-ying's swan song policy address in January last year took him more than two hours to deliver.

It is understood that the text in Lam's debut policy address is even longer than Leung's longest address.

Executive Council convener Bernard Charnwut Chan confirmed in a radio interview that Lam will not be reading out her first address word for word, following recommendations from Exco members.

"The policy address, the oral version, can be presented differently, that is more forward-looking, and letting people hear the main points, so as to give them hope in how the new chief will lead Hong Kong in the next five years," he said.

With the shorter delivery, Lam will have more time for tomorrow afternoon's press conference, which will be stretched to 75 minutes from the usual 45 minutes. Lam canceled the briefing session for management of media, believing it overlaps with the press conference.

Lam will announce a two-tier profits tax system to reduce the burden on enterprises. She had earlier suggested a tax rate for the first HK$2 million of profits to be lowered from the current 16.5 percent to 10 percent.

Lam will announce that the first tier of profits tax will stand at 8 to 8.5 percent, only half of the current level, the aim of which is to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises, according to Sing Tao Daily.

Chan said it is unlikely for big companies to split into small subsidiaries to take advantage of the lower profits tax.

"There is a cost - if you want to save on tax through that, then it is doable but the process is complicated, and only a little amount is saved," he said.

While he said the cut to 10 percent was only the starting point, an even lower profits tax rate may encourage big companies to split, which he said is not the government's goal.

The government will be conservative in rolling out the new tax system, he said.

A public-private partnership mode could be assumed for Lam's "Starter Homes" scheme, but Chan warned that it might involve problematic land plots if developers supply their farmland.

"There must be some problem with the farmland, or else they would have developed it themselves. We may need to solve these problems if we are to use the public-private partnership mode," Chan said.

The same will apply to other controversial suggestions such as developing golf courses, Chan said.

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