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When making this year's budget speech on Wednesday, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah discussed the riot that happened in Mong Kok in the small hours of Feb 9.

Although

Tsang called the riot illegal and said "localism" was just an excuse for committing crimes, he tended to use a comforting tone to woo the restless, heal wounds and call for harmony.

He also cited the Hong Kong soccer team's never-say-die spirit that was shown in the World Cup qualifying match against Qatar last year - during which the home team pulled two goals back in the last five minutes after trailing three goals - to encourage Hong Kong people to walk together and overcome the challenges ahead.

The 2016-17 Budget, which is his ninth, as well as the last that covers a full fiscal year, is beginning to return to the basics - with less distribution of "sweeteners" than in the previous years.

To combat economic woes, the financial secretary has announced relief measures to help small- and medium-sized enterprises and the tourism industry by exempting fees and offering rebates on profits tax.

He also supports innovation in the areas of research and development, financial technologies and startups - as well as creative industries, with emphasis on fashion and design, the film industry, arts and sports.

In terms of financial services, he actively promotes Green Finance, which is a part of the national 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20). Relevant financial products include Green Bonds to raise capital on environmental projects, involving renewable energy, waste treatment and sewage treatment.

On livelihood measures, Tsang appears to be focused more on the middle class, offering salaries tax rebates up to 75 percent with a ceiling of HK$20,000, which is very welcome for the middle-class earners.

The budget speech also announced higher allowances for married people, single parents and dependent grandparents. Social security recipients are given an extra month's payout, while rates will be waived for all quarters with a ceiling of HK$1,000 for each quarter.

Another highlight is the introduction of the Silver Bond, guaranteed with a 2 percent return, for purchase by Hong Kong citizens aged 65 and above. However, there are no longer any public housing rent waivers or electricity bill subsidies.

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Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah delivers the budget speech at the Legislative Council on Wednesday. Roy Liu / China Daily

(HK Edition 02/25/2016 page4)

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