Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced the introduction of a public transport subsidy scheme, among other livelihood initiatives, in her maiden policy address.

In a speech delivered at the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Lam said that there should be “innovative approaches” to concrete measures which improve livelihoods.

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Carrie Lam. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Under the newly introduced non-means tested Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme, Octopus users whose monthly public transport expenses exceed a specified level of HK$400 will receive a subsidy.

The government will provide 25 per cent of transport expenses over HK$400, subject to a cap of HK$300. For example, if a commuter spends HK$500 on transport, they can receive HK$25.

Lam said that the proposal, which is aimed at relieving the burden for long-distance commuters, comes after three months of work by the Transport and Housing Bureau.

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Legislative Council chamber on Wednesday. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“We anticipate that over two million commuters will benefit from the scheme, which will cover the fares of MTR, franchised buses, green minibuses, ferries and trams. The scheme will be simple and easy to understand, and will not require any application.”

Lam said that the government plans to launch the scheme within one year after obtaining funding approval from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council.

Housing needs ‘top priority’

Lam also said that with regards to people’s livelihood, housing needs are the “top priority.”

“The Government has no magic wands, but in the past few months the Directors of Bureaux concerned have demonstrated their readiness to think out of the box in a bid to address the community’s pressing needs,” she said.

Lam added that “housing is not a simple commodity” and the government “focus on home ownership to enable our people to live happily in Hong Kong and call it their home.”

Amongst the policies proposed is the “starter home” pilot scheme, which aims at providing affordable housing for middle-class families on top of the existing Housing Ownership Scheme.

The upper income limit for the scheme will be set at HK$34,000 a month for single people and HK$68,000 for household exceeding two members.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.