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Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the new chief secretary for administration, said she hopes to make room, so that retailers and hawkers can continue to do business in the face of rising rents. She said the plan was to apply existing resources through government coordination.
Lam’s comments were welcomed by a concern group that has attempted to host a regular morning bazaar in Tin Shui Wai. Bureaucracy and resistance from community leaders have delayed the plan for two years.
The previous administration had initiated 10 major infrastructure projects to stimulate economic growth, but Lam said at a forum on Monday that she would rather lay out a plan of “10 livelihood projects” to serve the pressing needs of the people.
Lam clarified on Wednesday that while there were not precisely 10 projects in her plan, one of her directions on the livelihood agenda was to make room for the small retailers and hawkers through “moderate government intervention”.
“The increase of shop rent in recent years, brought by the individual travel scheme, has narrowed the room of survival of smaller retailers and hawkers. And of course there is a problem with the Link,” she said.
The Link, an investment trust created by the government to run malls and markets inside public housing estates, has been criticized for deliberately eliminating small retailers. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had promised to consider a buyback.
Lam said the Development Bureau’s effort to preserve the open-air market in Wan Chai, which was threatened by an urban renewal project, set a practical example for the government to safeguard the unique street culture.
“It is not only a matter of economy, but also a matter of local characters,” she said. “I like (open-markets) a lot. If I visit a European town, the first place I look for would be this kind of bazaar.”
She suggested the government support could be given in the form of resources and coordination between departments. Statutory bodies and district councils may also play a role.
Athena Wong Wing-chi, project head of the Community Development Alliance, said Lam’s remark appeared to be the most concrete promise ever made by a key government official.