Following is the full text of the summary on the 2001-02 Budget Speech delivered by the Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, today (March 7):
This afternoon I presented my Budget to the Legislative Council.
I described how our economy bounced back dramatically last year. It grew by 10 and a half per cent in real terms; the highest growth for many years.
I know only too well that many people have yet to see an improvement in their personal finances. Wages have been frozen or even reduced. Unemployment remains high by Hong Kong standards. But I expect a gradual improvement as the economy grows steadily over the next few years.
Our public finances, as well, have not yet completely recovered. Our day-to-day costs still exceed our day-to-day income. This is because the money we collect from some of our taxes still falls well short of the sums we were getting before the economic downturn. There will be a problem if this continues in the longer term.
I weighed these and other external factors carefully as I prepared my Budget. On balance, I have decided this year that if to err is inevitable, I should err on the side of caution. I have continued to constrain the growth of government expenditure. But even with this level of growth I still need to make a small number of modest increases to taxes and charges.
I have been careful to target those increases to make sure that they do not affect people's basic livelihood or prejudice our economic growth.
I have also proposed two tax concessions which should sustain Hong Kong's economic development. One increases the amount of self-education expenses which can be claimed against Salaries Tax. This should encourage continued learning. The other reduces the stamp duty on stock transactions. This should keep our stock market competitive.
On the expenditure side, I am allocating additional funds to support the work of the District Councils on improving community facilities and community-building. And I am proposing a number of initiatives to assist those in our community who are most in need of our help and care.
I have set aside extra money to help address the basic needs of the disabled and to improve their employment prospects.
I have allocated funds to tackle the increasing problem of juvenile delinquency by identifying those at risk at an early stage and providing them with access to counselling and help.
And I have provided additional resources for more training and re-training for people out of work as well as setting up a fund to help smaller businesses train their staff.
We must all strive to upgrade our skills and knowledge. This is essential not only for our own personal advancement but also for Hong Kong's continued prosperity in the 21st Century. If we all do our best, Hong Kong will excel in its role as an international financial centre and Asia's World City.
Developments on the Mainland China's accession to the World Trade Organisation and the opening-up of Western China will give our economy another boost. We are set for another economic take-off.
This is my sixth and final Budget. I want to thank everyone for their support over the past few years. I leave my post of Financial Secretary confident in the future of Hong Kong.
End/Wednesday, March 7, 2001