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PRESS RELEASE

(Source : Government Information Centre)


Implementation of one-off concessionary measures announced in the 2002-03 Budget

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The Legislative Council passed a resolution under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance (Cap. 109) today (March 13) to extend the concessionary duty rate on ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD) to March 31, 2003.

The Financial Secretary announced in his Budget Speech on March 6 that he proposed to extend the concessionary duty rate on ULSD for one year, taking into account the operating difficulties of the transportation industry. The resolution passed today seeks to implement this proposal.

When ULSD was first introduced in July 2000, its duty was set at $1.11 per litre for environmental reasons in order to facilitate a switch from regular diesel to this less-polluting fuel. Since then, the diesel-fuelled vehicular fleet in Hong Kong has completely switched from regular to ULSD.

"According to previous resolutions passed by the Legislative Council, the duty on ULSD was to be adjusted to $2 per litre on January 1 2001 and to $2.89 per litre on January 1 2002. However, towards the end of 2000 and in June last year, the Administration, with the Legislative Council's agreement, twice extended the concessionary duty rate of $1.11 per litre, as a measure to provide economic relief for the transportation industry," a Government spokesman said.

With the passage of the resolution today, the duty on ULSD will remain at $1.11 per litre up to March 31 2003. The duty will revert to $2.89 per litre on the expiry of the concession, i.e. on April 1 2003. This concession will cost government revenue $1.2 billion in 2002-03. The cumulative cost of the ULSD duty concessions will amount to $4.6 billion.

Also at today's meeting, the Government tabled an Order made by the Chief Executive under the Public Finance Ordinance (Cap. 2). It seeks to implement the waiver of business registration fees, reduction in the water charges, fresh water flushing charges, sewage charges as well as trade effluent surcharges as announced by the Financial Secretary in his Budget Speech.

"The proposals contained in the Order are due to come into effect on April 1 2002," the spokesman said.

The Order proposes that businesses applying for a business registration certificate or renewal of a business registration certificate with commencement date falling within the one-year period between April 1 2002 and March 31 2003 would have their fee waived for 12 months. The waiver is also proposed to apply to branch registration certificate fees. Over 600,000 businesses will benefit from this concession.

Details of the arrangements will be announced by the Inland Revenue Department shortly.

The Order also proposes a waiver of water, sewage and fresh water flushing charges for the 12-month period commencing on April 1 2002, subject to specified maximum amounts. It also proposes a 30% reduction in trade effluent surcharges for 12 months with effect from April 1.

"As a result of these concessions, 80 per cent of the two million-plus households and business consumers will pay no water and sewage charges for one year. About 15,000 businesses will pay an average of $4,000 less of trade effluent surcharge," the spokesman said.

The above measures together with other concessions proposed in the 2002-03 Budget will help reduce the operating cost of commercial and industrial sectors, especially for the small and medium-sized enterprises and the transport operators.

The Financial Secretary has also announced in the Budget that the maximum concession on rates payable in 2002 for each rateable tenement would be raised from $2,000 to $5,000. This relief measure will take effect on April 1 2002. Over 2.7 million ratepayers will benefit, and 84 per cent of them need pay no rates for one year.

The overall package of the Budget's special economic relief measures will reduce the public's financial burden by $6.4 billion.

 

END/Wednesday, March 13, 2002

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