Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
Government will invest for a caring society, says CE in Policy Address

    The Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, has today  (October 10) pledged to improve people's livelihood by enhancing employment opportunities, encouraging social enterprises, caring for the elderly and returning wealth to the people.

     Deliver his Policy Address at the Legislative Council, Mr Tsang said it was important that all sectors of the community felt the benefits of Hong Kong's economic recovery so that social stability and harmony could be enhanced.    

     "The Government will actively adopt a multi-pronged approach in dealing with issues concerning people's livelihood, in particular the economic hardship faced by people at the grassroots level," he said.

     He said job creation was a main feature in his model of helping people to help themselves.

     He estimated that about 250,000 new jobs would be created by pushing ahead with 10 major infrastructure projects identified in his Policy Address.

     The Chief Executive also placed a strong emphasis on education saying that reducing inter-generational poverty, through the upward mobility of youngsters from low-income families, was the most effective way to tackle poverty.

     "To this end, the Government intends to implement a 12-year free education programme and provide more opportunities for retraining," Mr Tsang said.

     "Coupled with the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme, these measures can help children of low-income families grow and learn from early childhood to adolescence."

     "We want to enhance their ability to improve themselves and to lay a solid foundation for their future."

     Currently the Government provides nine years of free education, but the Chief Executive said 12-year free education would be offered from the next school year in 2008-2009.

     At the same time, the Government will start fully subsidising Vocational Training Council courses undertaken by Form Three school leavers.

     Mr Tsang called for a tri-partite collaboration among the Government, business and society to promote the development of social enterprises to create more jobs.

     He stressed that it was the responsibility of all individuals to upgrade their skills and knowledge to enhance their own employability.

     "Hong Kong's economic growth model has changed," Mr Tsang said.

     "The need for training and self-improvement is not just confined to low-skilled, low-educated and middle-aged workers. We need to turn our training policy into a long-term social investment."

     Mr Tsang said the roughly $3.5 billion collected from levies paid by employers of foreign domestic helpers would be used to fund a comprehensive expansion of training schemes under the Employees Retraining Board (ERB).

     "The number of training places will increase by 50% to 150,000 by 2008-09, and to 200,000 by 2009-10," he said.

     Under the new proposal the age limit of eligible trainees, currently 30 years or above, would be lowered to 15 years or above. Eligibility criteria would also be relaxed to include people with an education level at sub-degree or below.

     Regarding wages, the Chief Executive said he would monitor the effectiveness of the voluntary Wage Protection Movement (WPM) for cleansing workers and security guards.

     "If the mid-term review (of the WPM) is unsatisfactory, we will further promote the movement as well as proceed immediately with the preparatory legislative work on a statutory minimum wage," Mr Tsang said.

     He added that a statutory minimum wage bill could be introduced as early as possible in the 2008-09 legislative session.

     The Chief Executive emphasised that a society's progress was not only measured in economic, environmental and cultural progress but also in how people cared for the disadvantaged and the elderly.

     He announced a trial scheme under which all citizens aged 70 or above would annually be given five health care vouchers worth $50 each to subsidise primary medical care services they purchase from the private sector.

     The vouchers could cover a wide variety of services provided by Western and Chinese medicine practitioners, as well as for preventive services.

     Mr Tsang also urged family members to play a major role in taking care of the elderly and promised to strengthen training for carers of the elderly.

     He earmarked $200 million to help improve living conditions for elderly residents in some communities. He also said it was necessary to expand the Housing Society's pilot Senior Citizen Residence Scheme.

     Mr Tsang fulfilled his election pledge to provide tax relief.

     He said that, with the consent of the Financial Secretary, the standard rate of salaries tax would be reduced from 16 to 15% in the next fiscal year.

     Corporate profits tax would be reduced by one percentage point to 16.5%.

     He also announced that the rates waiver for the first two quarters of this fiscal year would be extended to include the last quarter of the 2007-08 financial year.

Ends/Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Issued at HKT 13:52


Print this page