Press Release



FS hears community views during Yau Ma Tei visit


The Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, has today (January 4) listened to a wide cross-section of community views during a visit to Yau Ma Tei.

"The visit was a great opportunity to discuss livelihood issues at the grass roots level. This is always a help at this time of the year when I'm drawing up the annual Budget," he said.

"Preparing the Budget involves a great deal of communication between different sectors of the community and the government.

"It is important for the government to reach out to the community to understand how they live and think. At the same time, I hope the community can support and understand the need for prudent fiscal management."

In a 90-minute visit Mr Tsang joined residents for 'yam cha' in a local restaurant, spoke with stall holders in a wet market, visited the jade market and met elderly citizens and new arrivals to Hong Kong at a community centre.

Topics discussed with the Financial Secretary included the state of the economy, difficulties faced by small businesses, the prices of food and household goods, programmes to help new arrivals settle into life in Hong Kong and the social safety net for the elderly.

Mr Tsang said residents raised some of the concerns and problems they had faced during the past two difficult years as well as the new directions of Hong Kong's economic development.

"The visit gave me an opportunity to explain some of the policies and initiatives that the government is following to address those concerns," he said.

During 'yam cha' at a local restaurant, Mr Tsang talked to more than 20 people.

Some told Mr Tsang that business over the past two years had not been good while some said business started to get better towards the end of last year. All hoped that the economy would improve in 2001.

They generally felt that there was low consumer sentiment. Mr Tsang agreed and said he expected this would improve with continued economic recovery and when more people received a pay rise.

At the Reclamation Street hawker area, Mr Tsang received a warm welcome from shoppers and stall-holders, who were eager to discuss how business was faring and their hopes for continued economic growth in the years ahead.

Mr Tsang said he expected the deflationary cycle of the past two years to ease further in 2001 and for the economy to continue growing.

He complimented stall owners on their hard work, determination and entrepreneurial spirit in providing strong competition to supermarkets selling similar products.

At the jade market, a popular tourist attraction, some traders in the semi-precious stone and other ornaments had told Mr Tsang that business was not too good while others said it had improved over the past year as more visitors came to Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Tourist Association estimates that Hong Kong welcomed about 13 million visitors in 2000, compared to nearly 10.7 million in 1999 - an increase of more than 20 per cent.

"Tourism is our biggest foreign exchange earner and accounts for about 5 per cent of GDP," said Mr Tsang.

"The jade market traders want more and more tourists to come to Hong Kong, because that means more business for them.

"The Government, together with the Tourist Association, will continue to enhance and upgrade Hong Kong's attraction as Asia's major tourist destination.

"The more tourists who come to Hong Kong, the more job opportunities for Hong Kong people and the more money spent in our economy."

On the last stop of his visit, Mr Tsang called in at the Henry G Leong Yaumatei Community Centre where he met new arrivals from the Mainland and a large group of elderly citizens.

He welcomed the new arrivals to Hong Kong and hoped that they would all settle in well, find work if they were looking for it, get their children into school and have happy and healthy life in their new home.

"Hong Kong is a city of migrants who have made their mark on the world stage. We believe that integration, not alienation, is the best path for our community to follow," he said.

"The government will provide you with help to settle into life in Hong Kong. But at the end of the day, equally important is a positive attitude and your own hard work and determination to succeed."

During a question and answer session, some of the new arrivals said they were worried about finding a job.

An older man said it had been hard for him to find work on construction sites because companies preferred to hire younger workers. One woman praised the retraining programmes offered by the government and hoped the Labour Department could help her to find work.

Mr Tsang asked all of the new arrivals not to lose heart and to continue to look for work. He said that as the economy improved, more jobs would become available.

As for hiring older workers, Mr Tsang said the government realised this was a problem and that was one reason why a Mandatory Provident Fund had been introduced.

During a chat with elderly citizens, Mr Tsang reassured them that there would always be a social safety net for Hong Kong's senior citizens, the needy, the underprivileged and the vulnerable.

He said the elderly had contributed greatly to Hong Kong's development in past decades.

"I assure you that while Hong Kong is not a welfare society, those in need would not be deprived of support and services," he said.

Before he left, Mr Tsang was presented with a hand-knitted woolen scarf by the group.

Photo: The Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, talks to a stall holder selling jade and other ornaments during a visit to the jade market at Yau Ma Tei this morning (January 4).

Photo: The Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, admires woolen scarves knitted by elderly volunteers during a visit to the Henry G Leong Yaumatei Community Centre this morning (January 4).

End/Thursday, January 4, 2001


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