Following is the transcript of the remarks given by the Acting Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, to the media on the 2003 Budget at the Legislative Council this afternoon (March 5):
Mr Tsang: The Financial Secretary has just announced his 2003 Budget. It sets out a very clear and comprehensive plan to restore our fiscal balance by 2006-07, this is what we have promised to do.
I appeal to all sectors of the community to examine the Budget carefully. It contains an outline of how the government will provide policy support to help our economy grow and develop, which in turn will create jobs for our citizens and help lower our unemployment rate. It explains clearly why we need to cut spending and raise taxes at this time.
Everyone in Hong Kong is working hard during these difficult times. In devising plans to get our public finances back on track, we know acutely that it is important not to put undue burden on our people. Also we must not allow our tax increases to hamper our economic recovery. The Budget strikes the right balance between dealing with the deficit in a decisive manner and addressing all these concerns.
The phased implementation of the salaries tax increases over the next two years serves to give taxpayers a breathing space to ease into these increases. On our part, the government will continue work hard to cut spending while maintaining quality service to the public.
All of us look forward to having more business and employment opportunities in the years ahead. Despite the present severe fiscal situation, we have not lost sight of this paramount concern of the public.
To this end, we will devote extra resources to promote Hong Kong's unique advantages as the strategic two-way trading platform of choice for Mainland and overseas businessmen. Our aim is to attract more overseas and Mainland businesses to set up offices in Hong Kong, which in turn will create positive spin-offs for our economy and for our job market.
I would like to ask everyone in Hong Kong to pull together as a community so we can overcome our current difficulties. With shared responsibility and a joint effort, we can get government finances back onto a solid footing to meet Hong Kong's long-term economic needs.
End/Wednesday, March 5, 2003