(28 February, 2018) The Financial Secretary today releases the 2018-19 Budget. In it, the government identifies innovation and technology among the three global trends, showing the government has put strong emphasis into I&T and ICT related items. This year, an extra $50 billion is injected to boost the development of innovation and technology, however, most initiatives are still about funds and infrastructural projects, the ICT sector can benefit only little in the short-term.
Among the $50-billion funding, $20 billion is for the first phase of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, accounting 40% of the total funding. While some other funding goes to The Science Park for the expansion plan. Commenting on the latest Budget, IT legislator Charles Mok says that over the past few years, funding for innovation and technology has accounted to a staggering $80 billion. However, most of the funding is invested in hardwares, there is still inadequate support for some imminent problems facing the ICT sector.
The latest Policy Address issued by Chief Executive Carrie Lam last year announced 8 major focuses for innovation and technology support, including nurturing talent, reviewing outdated law, improving the government IT procurement policy, opening up government data, reforming STEM education and more. It is disappointing that not enough specific measures or targeted outcomes are issued from this year’s Budget on Carrie Lam’s vision.
Mok was pleased that the Budget has adopted several of his proposals, including raising the subsidy amount for continuing education, and extending the use of the Technology Voucher Programme. However, the Budget fails to respond to the complaint from many start-ups concerning the red tapes in applying for the Programme.
Mok was also positive to the initiatives in the Budget which set out measures to assist the tourism, construction and medical sectors to adopt technology, including stepping up resources for BUD funds and for Cyberport to attract tech-companies from overseas, promoting the development of e-sports and subsidising start-ups to undertake market research and promotion.
However, it is disappointing that no further action is announced for Smart City development and other shortfalls in the Budget include inadequate support to assist children from underprivileged families in digital learning, and also to assist the workforce in digital upskill.
On electric cars, Mok sees the announcement of the “one-for-one replacement” scheme as a right direction to encourage more people switch to the use of electric cars. But apart from tax incentives, charging facilities have to be improved as a complementary policy.