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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (4)

Preserving Jobs

26. Jobs are important to social stability.  I agree with the view that Government's efforts to sustain employment should not focus on a few sectors.  They should benefit all businesses.  Preserving jobs is my primary objective in preparing this Budget.  We will not reduce expenditure because of the economic downturn and reduction in revenue.  We will adopt counter-cyclical measures and government expenditure will exceed $300 billion next year.  This will help ease the pressure of economic contraction, boost domestic demand and increase employment opportunities.

27. We will also introduce some targeted measures to provide various types of jobs and internship opportunities.  These measures fall into four groups:

* First, I will earmark $400 million non-recurrent funding for the Labour Department to enhance and integrate its various employment programmes to provide training and employment opportunities.  We will raise the levels of subsidy to employers as an incentive for them to hire middle-aged people and disabled persons, and extend the subsidy period.  It is estimated that these measures will benefit 44,000 people in the next two years.

* Second, I will provide $13 million additional funding for the Labour Department to adopt a more proactive approach in providing employment assistance to those made redundant during the financial crisis.  This assistance will include contacting the affected employees and providing them with priority referral and job matching services so that they can find suitable jobs as soon as possible.  In addition, we will organise more job fairs to provide them with a wide range of employment information.

* Third, to address the influx of graduates into the labour market in the middle of the year, we have approached and received positive feedback from University Grants Committee funded institutions and self-financing universities, the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association and relevant chambers of commerce on measures to relieve employment difficulties for these graduates.  We will launch an "Internship Programme for University Graduates" in the middle of the year.  The programme will provide interested graduates with opportunities to work as interns and receive training in local or Mainland enterprises for six to 12 months.  It will broaden the horizon of our graduates and help them gain experience, as well as nurture talent for the industrial and business sectors.  I have earmarked about $140 million for subsidising the internships and meeting other related expenses under the programme.  We expect the programme to benefit about 4,000 graduates.

* Fourth, I will provide an additional $1.1 billion non-recurrent funding to provide various types of jobs.  The measures include:

(1) introducing a two-year "Operation Building Bright" campaign for maintenance of 1,000 dilapidated buildings, including those without owners' corporations.  This will be done in co-operation with the Hong Kong Housing Society and the Urban Renewal Authority.  I will earmark $700 million and the two organisations will each provide funding of $150 million to assist owners of these buildings carry out repair and improvement works.  Elderly owner-occupiers will be eligible for a full subsidy of maintenance costs subject to a ceiling of $40,000, while non-elderly owners will enjoy an 80 per cent subsidy capped at $16,000.  The campaign will create 10,000 jobs in the next two years;

(2) earmarking $100 million to assist organisers to host more attractive events in the areas of arts, culture and sports over the next three years to further promote Hong Kong as an events capital of Asia.  This will help attract more tourists, stimulate consumption and promote economic development.  It is expected that such activities will create some 2,800 jobs;

(3) allocating $78 million to promote and organise community involvement activities under the theme of "Green, Cultural, Dynamic Games" and to publicise the 2009 East Asian Games.  This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.  We will join with various sectors of the community to organise a number of celebration activities, including art and cultural performances, exhibitions and youth exchange programmes.  These activities will create about 260 jobs in project co-ordination, publicity and promotion;

(4) earmarking $63 million to conduct a one-year education programme to teach Internet users, especially young students, how to use the Internet appropriately and safely.  It is expected that this programme will create about 500 jobs; and

(5) allocating an additional $130 million to carry out works to enhance energy efficiency of government buildings and public facilities.  It is expected that this measure will create some 200 jobs while helping to improve the quality of public buildings.

28. Besides creating jobs directly, the above measures will also provide training and job opportunities specifically to those in need, including young people, graduates, women, the middle-aged and the disabled.  These measures will entail a provision of $1.6 billion and create about 62,000 jobs and internship opportunities in the next three years.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 11:25


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