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FS outlines fiscal consolidation plan

In the 2024-25 Budget announced today, Financial Secretary Paul Chan proposed a number of measures to increase revenue and outlined a fiscal consolidation programme which aims to restore fiscal balance in a few years’ time.   Mr Chan said even though the Government strived to reduce expenditure as the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided, the total expenditure for 2023-24 reached $727.9 billion, representing an increase of 36.9% compared with 2018-19, of which operating expenditure rose substantially by 40.2% whereas operating revenue increased only 13.1%.   On capital works, owing to the fact that the Government has been pressing ahead with land and housing supply projects, along with other infrastructure works for improving the environment and people’s livelihood, the average annual expenditure has increased from about $76 billion over the past five years to about $85 billion in 2023-24.   Fiscal reserves have dropped to the current level of $733.2 billion.   Fiscal consoli

Building owners face legal action

The Buildings Department announced that it has initiated prosecution proceedings against owners or owner's corporations (OCs) of about 110 buildings for failing to comply with notices under the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme.
 
In a statement, the department explained that about 2,200 buildings of the 2,700 buildings with expired notices under the scheme have made progress in the past few months after the Government announced in July that it would step up its follow-up actions.  
 
It said this indicated that most owners are willing to assume their maintenance responsibility but may need assistance throughout the process. The department, together with the Home Affairs Department and the Urban Renewal Authority, will continue to provide full assistance to these owners to comply with the notices as soon as possible.
 
It further stated that for the some 470 buildings with expired notices with no progress and reasonable excuse, the department has initiated prosecution proceedings against owners or OCs of about 110 buildings and will consider prosecuting the owners or OCs of the remaining 360 buildings. 
 
Of the aforementioned 110 buildings, summonses were issued to about 20 buildings since the fourth quarter this year. Among which, the owners of two buildings were convicted and fined about $4,500 and $3,100 by the magistrates and the remaining cases are pending hearings scheduled by the court.
 
The department also pointed out that it has proactively initiated and completed special inspections of the external walls of about 170 buildings with potentially higher risk and immediately followed up the required emergency works in an effort to reduce the risk to public safety from the buildings with expired notices.
 
It emphasised that this special operation is aimed at the buildings’ external walls and cannot replace the owners' responsibility in building maintenance and compliance with the notices.
 
The owners or OCs concerned are still required to conduct inspection and repair works in respect of the buildings’ common parts.
 
Upon reviewing the Buildings Ordinance in the future, the Government will consider streamlining prosecution procedures against the expired notices and increasing fines in order to enhance its deterrence.
 
The Government will also put forward the legislative amendments for public consultation within next year, the department added.


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