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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (11)

A Caring Society

108. With economic development, we aim to build a prosperous and caring Hong Kong.  Through spending in areas such as housing, healthcare and social welfare, we provide disadvantaged groups and people in difficulties with a basic safety net.  We also invest heavily in education and training, and strengthen employment support services to enhance social mobility.  Our estimated recurrent expenditure on education, health and social welfare for 2010-11 will reach around $130 billion, accounting for 56 per cent of recurrent government expenditure.  I will now briefly describe my major proposals on developing human capital, community building, healthcare, and care for people in need.

Developing Human Capital

109. We have been investing heavily in education to develop our human capital.  Recurrent expenditure on education has increased by 18 per cent over the past 10 years.  In 2010-11, the estimated recurrent expenditure in this area will be $52.2 billion, taking up the largest share of recurrent government expenditure.  We will continue to take forward education reform initiatives such as the new academic structure for senior secondary and higher education, and small-class teaching in primary schools.  We will also implement additional measures as follows.

Enhancing After-school Support to Needy Students

110. I take a keen interest in the education and whole-person development of young people, especially needy students.  I will significantly increase recurrent funding for the School-based After-school Learning and Support Programmes by $100 million to $175 million to enable schools and non-governmental organisations to organise after-school activities for needy students.  This will provide further support to these students to improve their learning effectiveness, broaden their learning experience outside the classroom, and increase their self-confidence and sense of belonging.  A wide range of activities, including homework tutorials, cultural and art programmes, sports programmes, leadership training and volunteer services, will be offered.  The additional funding will help our needy students be nurtured into capable individuals and reduce cross-generational poverty.

Facilitating Internet Learning

111. To narrow the digital divide, the Policy Address proposed that convenient and suitable Internet learning opportunities be provided for students in need through tripartite collaboration between the community, the business sector and the Government.  In this digital age, web-based learning and research on the Internet have become an integral part of education.  After studying the issue with the relevant bureaux, I propose to adopt a two-pronged approach to help primary and secondary school students from low-income families with Internet learning.  We will grant them a subsidy for Internet access charges, and encourage the market to provide them with economical Internet services.

112. I propose to give a subsidy of $1,300 for Internet access charges in the 2010 school year to each family receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) with children studying in primary or secondary schools. For each family with children studying in primary or secondary schools and eligible for student financial assistance, I propose to grant a full subsidy of $1,300 or half subsidy of $650 depending on the outcome of their means test.  To offer an affordable option to students receiving the subsidies, we are also making preparations for a non-profit making organisation to collaborate with private service providers and community organisations to provide economical Internet services and computer hardware to low-income families in need.  This will bring market forces into play and make our policy more cost-effective.  The organisation will also provide complementary services such as parent education and technical support.  We will invite expressions of interest from interested non-profit making organisations.  When the organisation has begun to provide economical Internet services that meet learning needs, the subsidies for Internet access charges for subsequent school years will be suitably adjusted.  I have earmarked $500 million as the start-up capital for these two measures.

Launching Matching Grant Scheme

113. We are committed to fostering the development of higher education to complement our transformation into a knowledge-based economy.  Since 2003, the Government has launched four rounds of the Matching Grant Scheme (MGS) to help institutions tap more funding sources to support institutional development.  Institutions have so far secured additional resources of about $10.8 billion, comprising $3.9 billion in government matching grants and $6.9 billion in private donations.  The scheme has effectively promoted the development of the institutions and helped foster a philanthropic culture.

114. In view of the success of the scheme, I propose to allocate $1 billion to launch the fifth MGS.  For the first time, this will cover all 12 degree-awarding institutions so as to support the diversified development of higher education.

Upgrading Language Proficiency

115. To enable Hong Kong to maintain its competitiveness and embrace the opportunities brought by our economic integration with the Mainland, I propose to inject $500 million into the Language Fund to further upgrade our biliterate and trilingual proficiency.  Relevant initiatives include introducing or optimising the school-based measures under the English Enhancement Scheme, and creating an environment conducive to learning English and Putonghua.  We will also roll out school-based after-school support services to assist non-Chinese speaking students learn Chinese and adapt to the local curriculum as soon as possible for better integration into the community.

116. Regarding language proficiency in the workplace, the new resources will also be used to encourage employees to raise their standards of English and Putonghua.  Such measures may include providing vocational language courses tailored to the needs of the industries, encouraging the development and use of self-learning platforms on the Internet, and organising public education activities.  We will, in addition, strengthen research on language education.  We will invite the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research to put forward proposals for the above initiatives.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:10


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