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Hong Kong leader outlines $11.37 billion vision for future

Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa laid out his vision of the territory's economic future in a marathon two-hour speech Wednesday that touched on everything from housing and high technology to education and the environment.

The territory's chief executive has said many times that livelihood issues and not politics were most important to Hong Kong's 6.4 million people.And in his debut policy address to the legislature, Tung vowed to make housing more affordable, raise education standards and improve the welfare of the elderly and disadvantaged.

He also unveiled plans to boost competitiveness, especially in information technology, and announced that Hong Kong's first science park would be developed in 1998 with more to come later.

The government would build more roads, railways and other infrastructure to take Hong Kong into the next century.

Together, the initiatives would cost Hong Kong HK$88 billion ($11.37 billion) over the next five years.

Former shipping tycoon Tung was chosen by Beijing to take on the role of Hong Kong's first post-colonial leader following its handover to China on July 1, after 156 years of British rule.

The speech was widely regarded as a litmus test of Tung's ability to offer detailed solutions to Hong Kong's short-term problems and to suggest ways to assure its long-term prosperity.

"Each step we take today will set our course for decade," Tung said at the start of his address.

In mapping out his plan, Tung assured investors that Hong Kong would remain a good place to do business

"We will give the private sector freedom to set its own direction, to explore and to seize opportunities," he said.