CE's speech in delivering "The Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address" to LegCo (3)
32. To maintain and consolidate the international status of our convention and exhibition industry, there is a pressing need for new venues. Otherwise, Hong Kong will miss the opportunities to host some of the large-scale conventions and exhibitions that are either internationally important or newly launched. The current-term Government is determined to tackle this long-standing problem. After a detailed study, we consider that the priority is to build a new convention and exhibition venue of international standard in the proximity of the existing Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in Wan Chai. The new venue must be connected to and integrated with the existing HKCEC to maximise the benefits. Therefore, we have decided that for the time being, we will give up the identified site at the Wan Chai Sports Ground announced by the Government earlier. Instead, we will demolish and redevelop the three government buildings next to the HKCEC in Wan Chai North into a new wing that can be connected to and integrated with the existing HKCEC. Based on an initial estimate, the project will add about 23 000 square metres of connected convention and exhibition facilities. Hotel facilities, which complement convention and exhibition activities, and Grade A office space, which can help alleviate the market shortfall, can be built on top of the new convention and exhibition venue.
33. The proposed new wing of the HKCEC will not be sufficient to make up for the venue shortage. We will continue with the development of a new convention centre above the Exhibition Station of the Shatin to Central Link to provide the market with an additional 15 000 square metres of convention space. As a longer-term plan, when the reprovisioning of the Wan Chai Sports Ground is satisfactorily resolved, the site may be earmarked for the further development of convention and exhibition facilities so as to reinforce and enhance the status of Wan Chai North as a convention and exhibition hub in Asia. We will also continue to explore the feasibility of expanding other existing convention facilities.
34. With an ageing population, the challenges faced by public hospitals will be huge. They will not be able to fully address the demand for healthcare services even with the Government’s allocation of additional resources for hospital development projects and for the Hospital Authority, not to mention that prevention is better than cure and that home care and community care services will better meet the aspirations of the elderly to enjoy their golden years. Through the Working Party on Primary Health Care led by Professor Rosie Young, the Government had put forward a proposal as early as 1990 to step up the development of primary healthcare in Hong Kong. I happened to be the secretary of this working party and was responsible for drafting its report. Twenty-seven years on, while there has been advancement in disease prevention, health education and family medicine, our public healthcare services are still hospital-oriented and a large portion of public resources is devoted to hospitals. The Secretary for Food and Health, herself an expert in primary healthcare, has been an advocate in this area for many years. I shall give her my full support in drawing up a blueprint for the development and delivery of primary healthcare services, and the setting up of the first district health centre with a new operation model on a pilot basis in Kwai Tsing District.
35. The “offsetting” arrangement under the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme is another issue that has beleaguered the labour sector. At present, over $3 billion of accrued benefits from employers’ MPF contributions is used each year for offsetting severance payment or long service payment, thus reducing the total amount of employees’ MPF benefits on retirement. The current-term Government has made clear its stance that the “offsetting” arrangement should be abolished and is willing to increase its financial commitment to mitigate the impact of the abolition on enterprises, in particular micro, small and medium enterprises. The Secretary for Labour and Welfare will continue to discuss with the business sector and labour sectors, with a view to putting forward a proposal that takes into account the interests of both employers and employees in the coming months.
36. Under my new fiscal philosophy, the Government should make the right investments and in a timely manner so as to reduce the extra expenditure which may have to be incurred if action is delayed. Moreover, public resources should be used to address people’s most pressing needs. In my Policy Address, I pledge to reduce the waiting time to zero for two kinds of services: first, pre-school rehabilitation services for children with special needs, such as those suffering from autism, hyperactivity disorder, language disorder or dyslexia; and second, appropriate home and community care services for the elderly in need of support, including those discharged from hospital. In the year ahead, we will increase the places for pre-school rehabilitation services from 3 000 to 7 000 and the number of community care service vouchers from 3 000, as from early this year, to 6 000. The Government is ready to allocate more resources in order to achieve the target of zero waiting time.
37. Ageing and dilapidation of buildings is another issue that has plagued the public for a long time. At present, there are over 5 000 residential and composite buildings aged above 50 years in Hong Kong. Without timely inspection and maintenance, they will pose hazards to both the residents and passers-by. To further safeguard public safety and to assist owners in need, the Government will launch “Operation Building Bright 2.0” at a cost of $3 billion. The Government will devote another $2 billion to subsidise old buildings to meet the fire safety requirements under the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance. The Development Bureau and the Security Bureau will take forward these two schemes in collaboration. The Urban Renewal Authority is setting up a one-stop Building Rehabilitation Platform to provide comprehensive assistance to owners.
38. To secure public support for the Government, we must adopt a people-oriented approach and be attentive to the needs of the people. Thus, we have put forward an array of initiatives in this regard in the Policy Address, including:
- providing a recurrent Air-conditioning Grant for public schools starting from the next school year so as to provide a more comfortable teaching and learning environment for teachers and students in hot weather;
- providing more assistance for patients with uncommon disorders, including providing subsidies for specific drug treatments according to individual patients’ special clinical needs as well as subsidies for eligible patients to participate in compassionate programmes of individual pharmaceutical companies;
- significantly enhancing the Low-income Working Family Allowance Scheme whereby, for a four-person household with two eligible children, the monthly payment will increase by 23% from the current $2,600 to $3,200 if the monthly household income is $19,000 or below and the total monthly working hours of all household members are not less than 192;
- setting up a Special Needs Trust for parents in need so that they can rest assured that their children with intellectual or other disabilities will receive proper care through the use of the assets they left behind after their departure;
- proposing to increase the statutory paternity leave from three days to five days and commencing a study and the related work on extending the duration of the 10-week statutory maternity leave;
- doubling the number of internship places in government departments for students with disabilities from 50 to 100 a year, thereby enhancing their competitiveness when they enter the work force;
- conducting a comprehensive review on the entry requirements relating to Chinese proficiency for all grades in the civil service so as to increase government job opportunities for the ethnic minorities;
- resuming the construction of new public markets to offer wider choices of fresh provisions to the public, and improving the facilities and management of existing public markets, including expediting the installation of air-conditioners;
- establishing a Countryside Conservation Office under the Environment Bureau, drawing on the experience of the countryside conservation efforts in Lai Chi Wo, to co-ordinate conservation projects in remote countryside areas. The initiative will not only protect natural ecology and cultural resources, but also promote eco-tourism; and
- taking the lead, including providing subsidies, to encourage telecommunications companies to extend the fibre-based network to villages in remote locations. It is estimated that about 170 000 villagers in about 380 villages currently without high-speed broadband network coverage will benefit.
39. During my election campaign, I pledged to connect with young people. As stated in the Policy Address, we will strive to do our best in youth development work by addressing their concerns about education, career pursuit and home ownership, and encouraging their participation in politics as well as public policy discussion and debate. Education is the key to nurturing talent, and Government expenditure on education is the most meaningful investment for our future development. I proposed during my election campaign an immediate increase of recurrent education expenditure by $5 billion a year. This was much welcomed by the community. Various quality education initiatives funded by the $3.6 billion allocation are being launched progressively starting from this school year. As to how the remaining $1.4 billion recurrent funding should be put to good use, the Government will examine the relevant issues and continue to discuss with the education sector. We will also provide additional resources where necessary. We need to carry out in-depth reviews on eight key areas of education, including professional development of teachers, curriculum arrangement, assessment system, vocational and professional education and training, self-financing post-secondary education, school-base management, parent education and University Grants Committee’s funding on research and student hostels. The Education Bureau will set up task forces this year to take forward the reviews on these various areas. Under the principles of “Led by Professionals” and “Listening to Views Directly”, we will invite education experts, including professionals with good knowledge of the situation of frontline teachers and student learning, to participate in the work of the task forces.
40. As regards encouraging young people to participate in public policy discussion and debate, we will appoint more young people to various government committees with the aim of increasing the overall ratio of youth members to 15% within the current-term Government. As a start, we will invite young people to become members of selected boards and committees in areas such as youth development, I&T and the environment by self-recommendation through the pilot member self-recommendation scheme. We will soon start the recruitment of 20 to 30 young people aspiring to pursue a career in policy research as well as policy and project co-ordination to join the proposed Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit on a non-civil service contract basis, so that they can gain experience in public administration and the voices of young people can be heard at senior levels of the Government.
41. Honourable Members and fellow citizens, my vision is for a Hong Kong of hope and happiness – a city we are all proud to call our home. I see a vibrant international metropolis that is just, civilised, safe, affluent, enjoys the rule of law, compassionate and well-governed. To achieve this vision, we need to have a society that is united, harmonious and caring. This vision is not, in reality, that far off. In fact, it has been Hong Kong’s way to success for more than half a century. We have not lost our intrinsic advantages. Hong Kong people are still brilliant and the Hong Kong spirit has not been eroded. As the lyrics of “Hong Kong Our Home”, the HKSAR 20th Anniversary Theme Song, go:
“We’ve built wonders through hard work
Believing in ourselves evermore
That’s why I treasure Hong Kong
That’s why I appreciate Hong Kong.”
As long as we can achieve consensus, and capitalise on our strengths, the best of Hong Kong is yet to come!
42. Let’s connect for hope and happiness!
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