Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that her second policy address included around 25 new measures.
1. Banning e-cigarettes
Despite the government’s previous intention to regulate e-cigarettes, Lam proposed a total ban in order to protect the health of the public. She wrote that the decision was made after the medical professions, education sector, parents and many members of the public expressed concern about the adoption of a regulatory approach.
“Often packaged as less harmful substitutes with promotion tactics targeted at youngsters and non-smokers, these products open a gateway to the eventual consumption of conventional cigarettes,” she wrote.
“The fact is: all these new smoking products are harmful to health and produce second-hand smoke. There is also a lack of sufficient evidence to prove that these products can help quit smoking.”
“The public may underestimate the harmful effects of these products and eventually endorse the smoking image and relevant behaviours once again.”
2. Waiving bus tunnel fares
Lam announced that the government will pay for franchised buses’ tolls at the Western Harbour Crossing, to slow fare increases. Citybus and KMB, the two largest bus companies, welcomed the move.
She also said the government will review the tolls for private cars, taxis and motorcycles at the three cross-harbour tunnels to alleviate traffic congestion.
Unnamed government sources told Ming Pao that the toll for private cars at the Western Harbour Crossing is expected to drop from HK$70 to HK$50, but fares at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and the Eastern Harbour Crossing will increase to HK$40 from HK$20 and HK$25 respectively.
3. MPF offset
Lam said that the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme “offsetting” arrangement will be abolished. Under the arrangement, employers are currently able to use employees’ retirement programme funds to cover their long-service and severance payments.
As compensation for employers, the government will commit HK$29.3 billion in subsidies for up to 25 years.
The goal, Lam said, was to pass legislation by 2022 to abolish the arrangement.
4. Elderly flat-swapping scheme
Lam said the government will introduce a flat-swapping scheme for elderly people living in public housing.
Under the scheme, under-occupied households – where family members are all aged 70 or above – will be granted lifetime free rent if they move to small, new or refurbished units.
The government will also introduce a scheme for those who are over 60 years old and have owned their public housing flats for at least ten years. They can sell their original flats and then buy a smaller public housing flat in the secondary market without payment of premium.