Amid a record budget deficit, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan last week unveiled more than HK$120 billion in measures to support businesses, reduce the hardship many are facing and revive the economy.
While the HK$5000 electronic consumer voucher scheme and the stamp duty increase on stock duty took prominence in CPA Australia’s original budget coverage, there are many smaller and interesting items you may have missed.
Here are 10 interesting items from the Hong Kong Budget that may have not made the headlines.
1. Improving hiking trails in country parks
Encompassing about 40 per cent of Hong Kong’s total land area, visiting country parks is a popular recreational activity. The government has earmarked HK$55 million to improve ten popular hiking trails in country parks.
2. Upgrading football pitches
To help increase the opportunity of the general public to play football regularly and to contribute to the long-term development of the sport, the government has earmarked HK$318 million to implement a five-year plan for upgrading more than 70 football pitches across the city.
3. Paying examination fees for school candidates sitting for the 2022 HKDSE Examination
As part of one-off measures to reduce pressures from increased costs of living, the government will pay the examination fees for school candidates sitting for the 2022 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Examination. This will involve a cost of HK$150 million.
4. Relieving traffic congestion
With a view to easing traffic congestion, the government has increased the rate of each tax band for the first registration tax for private cars (including electric private cars) by 15 per cent and the vehicle licence fee by 30 per cent. The tax increase came into effect on 24 February 2021.
5. Enhancing mental health services
To further improve mental health services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the government will provide additional funding of about HK$147 million to enhance child and adolescent psychiatric, community psychiatric and psychogeriatrics services of the Hospital Authority.
6. Cutting expenditure to strengthen fiscal discipline
In the face of an expected deficit for several more years, the government announced it will not increase the headcount of the civil service establishment in 2021-22.
The government will also implement an expenditure reduction program to cut recurrent expenditure by one per cent in 2022-23 without affecting livelihood-related spending. The estimated savings of the program will be about HK$3.9 billion.
7. Air Travel Bubble arrangements
The government will discuss and work out Air Travel Bubble arrangements with places that have close economic and trade relations with Hong Kong and where the pandemic situation is considered to be relatively stable.
8. Rolling out e-payment options
In light of the pandemic, the government has expedited its work on providing more electronic services to the public. It will provide e-payment options for paying most government bills and licences starting from mid-2022.
9. Training talent in works projects
To enhance the professional skills of mid-tier managers in the government and uplift project delivery capabilities, HK$6 million has been earmarked for the provision of systemic training in the next three years.
10. Injecting HK$1.1 billion into the Lotteries Fund
Established in 1965 for the purpose of financing social welfare services, the Lotteries Fund will receive an injection of HK$1.1 billion to ensure that feasibility studies of social welfare development projects, particularly major facilities for elderly and rehabilitation services, can proceed as scheduled.
A summary of the Budget 2021-22 initiatives and relevant links is available here. An overview of the tax measures announced in the Budget 2021-22 is available here.