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

Medical and Health

104. As I mentioned in my first Budget, with an ageing population, healthcare presents the greatest challenge to the stability of our long-term public finances.  After completing the first stage public consultation on healthcare reform in 2008, the Food and Health Bureau is now preparing for the second stage public consultation.  In health care service reform, we have already set up the Working Group on Primary Care to put forward specific proposals on enhancing primary care.  We have also implemented a number of pilot projects based on the concept of "money follows patient".  These include the Influenza Vaccination Subsidy Scheme and the Elderly Health Care Voucher Pilot Scheme.  These projects have laid the foundation for the enhancement of healthcare services through public-private partnership.

105. The Government will honour its pledge to increase healthcare expenditure to 17 per cent of recurrent expenditure by 2012.  When the supplementary financing arrangements are finalised after consultation for implementation, we will draw an amount of $50 billion from the fiscal reserves to implement the reform, irrespective of what the final arrangements are.

106. In the next few years, we will make use of increased healthcare resources to strengthen services and take forward service reform.  I will increase the recurrent subvention for the Hospital Authority over the next three financial years by about $870 million a year.  In other words, the annual subvention in 2011-12 will be approximately $2.6 billion higher than at present.  I have also earmarked some $840 million for the next three financial years to implement various complementary measures to strengthen primary care services and the support to chronic patients, promote public-private partnership, and develop a territory-wide electronic health record system.

107. As the public is attaching increasing importance to food safety, we are taking measures to support the development of food testing services, such as the provision of reputable accreditation services for private laboratories.  This will help Hong Kong to develop into a food testing hub in the region.

108. Separately, for public health reasons, I propose to increase tobacco duty by 50 per cent with immediate effect.  The duty on cigarettes will increase from around $0.8 to about $1.2 per stick.  We will also continue to step up our efforts on smoking cessation, as well as on publicity and enforcement in tobacco control.

Alleviating People's Hardship, Sharing the Burden in Times of Difficulties

109. I firmly believe that public resources should be used where appropriate.  Although our fiscal position in the coming year is unlikely to be robust, we will continue to spend to meet our commitments to the community, particularly the middle class and disadvantaged groups, and at the same time to alleviate economic contraction.

110. The relief measures announced in the last Budget and by the Chief Executive in July 2008 will continue to alleviate people's hardship in the coming year.  For example, expenditure on electricity charges subsidy in 2009-10 is estimated at $4.7 billion.  The subsidy should enable people to spare more money for consumption, which in turn will stimulate the economy.  Other measures such as the Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners, short-term food assistance services and half fare concessions for students will continue to help ease the burden of the elderly, lower-income groups and parents.

Working Together for a Caring Community

111. Over the past few months, I have heard many say that the Government should not reduce expenditure for the disadvantaged during economic downturns and should instead provide them with appropriate support in difficult times.  I will propose budget measures to assist the disadvantaged groups, enhance their quality of life and promote social harmony.

Child Care Service

112. I am aware that some parents may not be able to take care of their young children because of work or other reasons.  I have talked with parents participating in the pilot Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project and with home-based child carers.  They generally support the Project.  I vividly remember a grandmother recounting in tears the pressure of babysitting two young grandchildren and her wish for help in times of need.  I spoke to a transport worker who took his child to meet his babysitter in a park every day so that the child could receive the care of the babysitter while playing, and could hence get familiar with the babysitter more easily.  The painstaking efforts of the father, the loving care of the babysitter and the spirit of mutual help in the neighbourhood have all left a deep impression on me.

113. We have, since last October, implemented the pilot Neighbourhood Support Child Care Project in six locations with higher demand for child care services, namely Tung Chung, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung, Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Kwun Tong.  We encourage neighbours to take care of each other's young children.  This can foster a closer community relationship, and provide more flexible child care services in addition to the regular ones.  We plan to extend the project in March this year to other districts to meet the needs of more families.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:28


Print this page