The Secretary for the Treasury, Miss Denise Yue, presented to the Legislative Council's Financial Affairs Panel today (April 13) a proposal to revise Government fees and charges which do not have direct impact on people's livelihood. She made an electronic statement on this issue on the Government website. The full transcript is as follows:-
Examples of proposed items
One example is licence fees, payable by very special businesses such as dancing schools and massage parlours. Another example is dog permits. A third example is ownership or possession of guns or ammunitions. Yet another example is ocean-liners discharging chemical waste in Hong Kong.
User Pays principle
The Government has a "user pays" policy. This policy is also agreed to by Members of the Legislature. Under this policy, users of Government services have to pay the full costs incurred by the Government in the provision of these services. This is a fair policy because failure to comply with this policy would mean taxpayers would have to subsidise the costs of providing these services. However, the Government also recognises the need to take into account acceptability and affordability in terms of revision of the level of fees and charges.Therefore, if there are some fees for which a hefty increase would be required in order to achieve full-cost recovery, the Government would be prepared to consider phasing the level of increase required over a period of time.
Review of existing services
The "User Pays" principle does apply to all the fees identified in the fee revision proposed for this time. However, some of the fees have not been revised for a long time. So for these fees we may require a period of time before we can fully implement the "User Pays" principle.
Government has the responsibility to ensure that the services it provides meet the criterion of cost-effectiveness and in fact in order to achieve this objective, the Government is currently implementing the Enhanced Productivity Programme as well as a list of other enhancing productivity measures. In addition, we will require all policy secretaries and heads of departments to review all the services they are currently providing to members of the public to ensure that these services are still required having regard to the changing needs of the community. If a policy bureau or a department is able to identify a service which is no longer required by the community now, then the department should take action to delete the provision of this particular service and if the service is no longer provided, then of course the associated fee can be dispensed with.
The economy of Hong Kong is well on its way to recovery. This is evidenced by the fact that in the third quarter of 1999, our economy grew in real terms by 4.4%. In the fourth quarter of last year, our economy grew at 8.7% which is quite remarkable. And for calendar year 2000, the Financial Secretary has forecast that our economy will grow in real terms by 5%. So, Hong Kong 's economy is really on the way to steady economic growth and we believe it's the right time to tackle those fees and charges which do not directly impact livelihood or affect general business.
We consulted Members of the Financial Affairs Panel of the Legislature this afternoon. We will consider the views expressed to us very carefully. We hope to proceed with the revision of those fees and charges which do not impact on general livelihood and on general businesses as soon as possible.
At this point in time, we intend to consult the Legislative Council in the autumn of this year, that is around October/ November. Subject to views expressed to us by Members of the Legislature, we will need to prepare subsidiary legislations for many of the proposed revisions. So I anticipate it will take some months even after October or November this year for the proposed revised fees to take effect.
END/Thursday, April 13, 2000