Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
Good morning, Hong Kong.
Spring is right around the corner, but my thoughts this relaxing Sunday morning linger on a Christmas party at my residence back in mid-December last year for children from Sham Shui Po.
I had asked some of the children who joined the party that day if they had any suggestions for my Budget, then still more than two months away from delivery. One among them, an 11-year-old boy named Hok-wing – asked for more space to play in.
A budget attempts to do a great many things, from shaping our economic development to ensuring that ours is a caring and inclusive society. But beyond focusing on housing, education, health and welfare, and other basic needs, a Budget must also offer the resources, the programmes and the means to creating a livable city.
Arts and culture, a sustainable environment, sports and recreational facilities are essential ingredients in a livable city. So, too, is space. Space to walk, talk and dream in. And, yes, space to play in as pointed out by Hok-wing.
Well, I’m happy to tell Hok-wing, and the people of Hong Kong, that the 2019-20 Budget puts a high priority on livable, breathable, enjoyable space.
It will spread out alongside our storied Victoria Harbour. That’s prime people space. Family space. Kid space. In this Budget, I earmarked $6 billion to fund nine major harbourfront enhancement projects.
That, by the way, is in addition to the $500 million in dedicated funding set aside in 2017.
The bigger picture is this: the Government will provide 35 hectares of new open space – almost twice the size of the Victoria Park – along both sides of our harbourfront. Over the next decade, we will extend the waterfront promenades from their present 20 kilometres to 34 kilometres.
Five of the nine harbourfront enhancement projects are located in Wan Chai, plus one each in the Eastern District, Kai Tak, Cha Kwo Ling and Tsuen Wan. All are brilliantly situated and will, undoubtedly, prove immensely popular.
Among the nine, work on the Island Eastern Corridor boardwalk is expected to begin in 2021, with completion scheduled for 2025 – earlier, if we can. We want Hok-wing and you all to enjoy it as soon as possible.
The sites of the remaining waterfront projects will be released upon the completion of infrastructural work, beginning next year. In the meantime, we will carry out detailed design work for each of the nine projects. On this, we are in close contact with the relevant District Councils on the implementation details.
Regarding their design and use, plans will be developed in concert with the people of Hong Kong. For one or two signature projects in Wan Chai North, we are considering organising a design competition.
The point is we are looking for innovative designs built around engaging themes, from water-centred to smart, green and more.
Some of the harbourfront enhancement projects may be realised through public-private partnerships. Local or global – we encourage both. The key is to maximise the creativity and expertise in project development and management.
Our harbourfront goal is lifestyle diversity, embracing everything from alfresco dining and water-friendly happenings to novel recreational offerings.
Allow me now to update you on the progress of current on-going harbourfront projects, each of which has been approved by the Harbourfront Commission.
The waterfront enhancement of Tsuen Wan will be completed in phases, beginning in the middle of this year.
By the end of next year, the promenade connecting Tamar and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre will be in place, offering a spectacular, three-kilometre waterfront walk all the way from Sheung Wan to Wan Chai.
A technical feasibility study is in progress for the open space at Eastern Street in Sai Ying Pun. We will consult the Harbourfront Commission on its preliminary design later this year.
As for the planned 2.2 hectare Urban Park at Hung Hom, we are sounding out the market on the possibilities of a public-private partnership. The arrangement would cover the park’s design, creation and management.
Victoria Harbour is a natural treasure. In the past, its reclamation gave us valuable land resources for Hong Kong’s economic and social development. That was then. Today, our responsibility is clear and compelling: to preserve and protect it, while making it accessible and desirable for you, the people of Hong Kong.
It’s an inspiring mission. More than space, it also expand our possibilities, both as a community and as an economy. No less important, it’s bound to make Hok-wing happy.
I wish you an enjoyable day and a rewarding year bright with business success and the many pleasures of play.