Chief Executive John Lee’s inaugural Policy Address put forward a wide range of pragmatic proposals to address issues such as identifying land for housing, attracting talent, and reinforcing and enhancing our competitiveness. I would describe his response to public needs as bold. Indeed, the Government’s result-oriented approach to governance has a clear objective – to enable society to return to normalcy and revive the economy as soon as possible.
On attracting and retaining talent, I am pleased that the Government has adopted a number of recommendations that I proposed to address the needs of businesses. These include the establishment of a Talent Service Unit and the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises, to be led by the Chief Secretary for Administration and Financial Secretary, respectively. These will provide one-stop services and support to attract talent and enterprises.
Another highlight of the Policy Address was the launch of a two-year Top Talent Pass Scheme. Eligible foreign talent will include those whose annual salary is HK$2.5 million or above, as well as graduates from the world’s top 100 universities with at least three years’ work experience over the past five years. Eligible individuals who have subsequently become a permanent resident can apply for the refund of extra stamp duty paid for purchasing residential property in Hong Kong. This measure will make the overall stamp duty on par with what is levied on first-time home buyers who are ordinary permanent residents.
In my opinion, the Government’s prescription of a “heavy dose” to attract talent, in response to the global race for recruiting talent, deserves recognition. However, there is still room to enhance the scheme. First, the HK$2.5 million threshold for the annual salary of eligible individuals should be lowered to make the scheme applicable to more candidates. Second, if the spouse or family members of applicants intend to come along to Hong Kong for work, the application procedures should be simplified to facilitate their arrival.
The Policy Address also focused on supporting businesses and relieving people’s burden. Measures included extending the Pre-approved Principal Payment Holiday Scheme for another six months to the end of July 2023, as well as reducing water and sewage charges for non-domestic accounts for another eight months.
All these measures are welcomed by the business community. Nevertheless, the key to the full implementation of the policies to attract talent and enterprises to the city boils down to a complete removal of quarantine restrictions, as far as risks can be properly managed. This will allow visitors from around the world to freely travel to and from Hong Kong and experience first-hand the city’s advantages in the post-pandemic era.