2010-11 Policy Address by Chief Executive (1)
*********************************************

     Following is the full text of the 2010-11 Policy Address íV Sharing Prosperity for a Caring Society íV by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, in the Legislative Council today (October 13):
    
Mr President,

A. Introduction

1. For the past two years, we lived under the menace of a looming global economic recession. Our policies were thus geared to responding to the crisis triggered by the financial tsunami.  To cope with the crisis, we appealed to all Hong Kong people to stand united to vigorously pursue economic development and to seize opportunities for progress.  The situation has more or less stabilised, and we have weathered this financial storm.

2. The Hong Kong economy has progressively stepped out of the shadow of the global financial crisis.  Following the rebound that started in the second quarter of last year, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) returned to positive year-on-year growth in the fourth quarter.  This recovery gained further momentum in the first half of this year.  Driven by both exports and domestic demand, our economy has grown by a robust 7.2% and surpassed the pre-tsunami peak level.  The unemployment rate has dropped to 4.2%, the lowest since January 2009.  Inflationary pressure, although rising with the economic rebound, is still mild.

3. This year, our economy is expected to grow by 5-6%.  Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant since there are still many uncertainties in the external economy.  We need to guard against greater downside risks in the global economy and increased risks of asset-price bubbles in Asia resulting from the fragile recovery of the US economy and the lingering sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

4. With the retreat of the economic shadow, livelihood issues are now the community's principal concerns, with housing, the wealth gap and elderly welfare drawing the greatest attention.  The Government has long been making efforts to deal with these issues.  Our work includes consultation on the Government's role in helping members of the public purchase a home, increasing land supply, and protecting consumer interests through various measures such as enhancing the transparency of the private property market.  For low-income families, we have completed a review of the Transport Support Scheme.  In regard to welfare services for the elderly, we will adopt a new mindset to tackle the challenges to our healthcare and welfare systems posed by an ageing population.  This Policy Address outlines the results achieved in these areas and proposes initiatives for the next stage of work.

5. Social tension has already divided our community to a certain degree.  When running for Chief Executive in 2007, I stressed the need to properly handle various relationships in the Special Administrative Region (SAR), including the relationships between the rich and the poor and between large corporations and ordinary people.

6. Over the past century or so, Hong Kong has evolved from a fishing village into a migrant city, an entrepot, a world factory and, today, an international financial centre.  With a deep-water port as our only natural advantage, our success has been founded on the perseverance and enterprising spirit of our people.  The Government's role has been to create a favourable business environment through various policies to enable enterprises to flexibly cope with external economic challenges.  Step by step, we have come a long way.

7. As the economy and society continue to progress, Hong Kong people's expectations about their own lives and about the Government also change.  Post-war migrants to Hong Kong looked for food and shelter to improve their living standard.  The generation that followed sought to build a comfortable home and a good career.  The new generation pursues social justice, civil rights and environmental conservation.  This is what a mature economy goes through in the course of social development.  We cannot avoid these changes.  Instead, we should actively promote them to build a better society for future generations.

8. Since my election as the third-term Chief Executive, I have been committed to promoting change and reform.  I have advocated striking a balance between development and conservation, and invited the business sector to play a bigger role in society.  I believe that Hong Kong enterprises can more actively fulfil their social responsibility.  For example, they can participate in the development of social enterprises, which will not only ease the tense and confrontational atmosphere in society through tripartite co-operation among the community, businesses and the Government, but also provide substantive help to people in need.

9. Hong Kong took a critical step towards universal suffrage last June, when the 2012 constitutional package was passed by the Legislative Council.  The road to universal suffrage lies ahead.  All sectors of the community should set aside their differences for the common good and move ahead step by step in a pragmatic manner.  Universal suffrage is the ultimate goal of Hong Kong people, but to achieve good governance, democratic reform must be supported by complementary measures, in particular the nurturing of political talent.

10. The business sector has to participate actively in this process.  In the face of further democratic development, the business sector needs to adopt a new mindset and make greater efforts to prepare for universal suffrage.  I believe that a stable and harmonious society is the foundation for democratic development.  Everyone is duty-bound to contribute to a favourable social environment for universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Issued at HKT 11:11

NNNN