Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (12)

Patients with Financial Difficulties

139. With the rapid advance in medical technology in recent years, the efficacy of treatment of serious illnesses such as cancer has notably improved.  But the new medicines used are often very expensive.  I propose to inject $1 billion into the Samaritan Fund to enable more new medicines to be included on the subsidy list of the Fund according to the established mechanism so as to relieve the burden on patients with financial difficulties.

Ethnic Minorities

140. Though a predominantly Chinese society, Hong Kong has quite a number of ethnic minorities who are valued members of our community.  Many have attained outstanding achievements in their professions and have made significant contributions to Hong Kongˇ¦s economic growth and social development.

141. Some members of ethnic minorities, however, are disadvantaged because of their education level, language barriers, lack of social networks, and other causes.  In view of this, I propose:

(a) Granting a recurrent annual allowance of $300,000, starting from the 2008-09 school year, to 19 designated primary and secondary schools to help them implement the School-based Support Scheme for non-Chinese speaking students, and to suitably increase the allowance granted to such ˇ§designated schoolsˇ¨ with a higher intake of non-Chinese speaking students.  We will also seek to increase the number of these schools to 25 within two school years.  It is estimated that full implementation of these proposals will entail an additional provision of $13 million a year.

(b) Setting up, on a trial basis, four support service centres in different districts to provide interpretation services for ethnic minorities using health care services, job centres and social welfare facilities.  Chinese and English language courses and other activities will also be organised to help them integrate into the community.  I will earmark $16 million as the operating expenses of these centres for the coming year and allocate an additional $8 million to subsidise their start-up cost.

Social Security Recipients

Additional Allowance

142. To share the fruits of economic prosperity with social security recipients, I propose to provide one additional month of the standard rate CSSA payments for CSSA recipients and one additional month of allowance for recipients of Disability Allowance.  This proposal, which involves an expenditure of about $1.2 billion, will benefit 620 000 people.

Adjustment to CSSA Payment Rates

143. I am very concerned about the impact of recent price rises on CSSA households.  Apart from the additional one-month standard rate CSSA payments, we also propose to adjust the CSSA payment rates in accordance with the existing mechanism ahead of the normal schedule this year, so as to ease the impact of rising prices on these households.  This measure will increase government expenditure on CSSA payments when inflation rises.

Public Housing Tenants

144. In order to ease the burden of low income families, I propose that the Government will pay one monthˇ¦s rent for lower income families living in the rental units of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) and the Hong Kong Housing Society (HS).  However, this measure will not apply to HA tenants who are required to pay extra rent or tenants of HS Group B estates.  I have earmarked about $1 billion for this measure.  We will discuss implementation details with the HA and HS.

Low-income Group

Pilot Transport Support Scheme

145. The pilot Transport Support Scheme introduced last June aimed at encouraging the unemployed and low-income employees with financial difficulties living in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, the North District and outlying islands to seek employment across districts.  Under the Scheme, eligible applicants are allowed to claim a Job Search Allowance of $600 and a Cross-district Transport Allowance of $600 a month for up to six months.

146. After reviewing the Scheme, the Government considers that its objective should remain unchanged.  However, the eligibility criteria of applicants and the subsidy period can be suitably relaxed.  The ceiling for monthly income should be raised from $5,600 to $6,500, while the subsidy period should be extended from six months to 12 months.  Having regard to the large area covered by these four districts, we will also allow eligible people working and living in the same district to apply for the allowance.

147. However, I must emphasise that the objective of the Scheme is to provide a time-limited allowance as an incentive for people in districts further afield to seek jobs across districts.  It is not a long-term measure to subsidise the transport costs of the low-income group with public money.  I believe that a better way to help lower-skilled people to seek jobs with higher value and wages is to raise their education level and enhance their skills.  Through this, the productivity of the community as a whole can also be enhanced.

Electricity Charge Subsidy

148. To ease inflationary pressure, I propose to grant each residential electricity account a subsidy of $1,800.  At present, about 15 per cent of households in Hong Kong pay an average of not more than $150 a month for electricity charges.  The subsidy will enable these households to cover their electricity charges for about one year.  As for another 20 per cent of households paying an average of $150 to $300 a month for electricity charges, the subsidy is enough to pay their electricity bills for about six months.  I believe this measure will most benefit lower income households.  The Government will inject the subsidy into the electricity bill accounts of eligible registered households in phases.  We will discuss with the two electricity companies the implementation arrangements and announce the details later.  This measure will cost about $4.3 billion.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:17


Print this page