Paul Chan Mo-po, Financial Secretary (FS) of the HKSAR Government, delivered Hong Kong’s 2018-19 budget in the Legislative Council today. The first full-year budget announced since Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took over as the SAR’s Chief Executive, it revealed a record surplus of HKD 138 billion, and focused heavily on welfare measures as well as I&T development. A massive HKD 50 billion – equalling over 35% of the budget surplus – has been dedicated to I&T, with particular emphasis on boosting the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF); Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop; two dedicated research clusters for artificial intelligence, robotics and health technologies; and enhanced support to enabling organisations like Hong Kong Science Park and Cyberport.
Mr Chan made it very clear that he would like to see Hong Kong shining bright “in the fierce I&T race amidst keen competition” from regional and global players. Leveraging its traditional and proven strengths and banking on emerging prospects, “Hong Kong must optimise its resources” while focusing on areas like biotechnology, artificial intelligence, smart city and FinTech. Suggesting that a sound strategy and targeted efforts must be supported by adequate resources, he pointed out that “In last year’s Budget, I reserved $10 billion for supporting I&T development. This year, I will set aside an additional $50 billion.”
In addition to HKD 20 billion and HKD 10 billion set aside for the Lok Ma Chau Loop project and ITF, FS announced HKD 10 billion support to Hong Kong Science Park. Hong Kong Cyberport will also receive additional funding to support technology start-ups, attract Mainland and overseas technology enterprises, and strengthen its incubation programme. When outlining his plans for the financial services industry, Mr Chan specifically mentioned grooming future talents and development of FinTech as important priorities.
In his budget speech, Mr Chan referred to the eight key areas in I&T development previously announced by the Chief executive: investing more resources into R&D, nurturing a talent pool, promoting venture capital, strengthening scientific research infrastructure, carrying out legislation review, opening up data, streamlining government procurement, and boosting STEM education.
In line with the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Policy Speech, the Financial Secretary said the Government will offer a significant tax-reduction for R&D investment. This, coupled with the Government’s continued support to basic and applied R&D institutions, aims to Hong Kong’s Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product from the current 0.73% to 1.5% within the current Government’s five‑year tenure.
ASTRI welcomes the strategic boost announced in the budget – the fund allocation will provide significant support to I&T development in Hong Kong. As the largest Government-funded R&D institution in Hong Kong, ASTRI focuses on exploring and applying new technological solutions in areas such as AI, machine learning, smart city and FinTech. ASTRI remains committed to leveraging the power of technology to collaborate with different stakeholders in the I&T ecosystem in enhancing the competitiveness of businesses and enriching the lives of people.