Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (11)

Caring for People's Livelihood

127. Our efforts in developing the economy are to improve people's livelihood.  To that end, we have to make good use of our social capital.  The most effective way of achieving this goal is to empower people from all walks of life to have greater self-reliance and capability, and help them improve their quality of life and seek self-enhancement, thus facilitating social mobility.  This will in turn provide ample opportunities for people to strive for their own future and become the driving force behind economic development and social progress.

Nurturing Talents


128. Education is the means of developing human capital and enhancing competitiveness in the long run.  More importantly, it provides people with more opportunities for personal development, inspiring them to strive for excellence and continuous improvement.  With aspirations and determination for advancement, everyone can fully develop his potential through learning and achieve self-reliance and success.  Education is the policy area which has always taken up the largest share of recurrent government expenditure.  In 2011-12, estimated expenditure on education will amount to more than $54 billion, accounting for 22.5 per cent of recurrent government expenditure.

Support for Students from Low-income Families

129. I am particularly concerned about the educational needs of students from low-income families because education is an important ladder in helping them achieve self-reliance and independence.  The existing student financial assistance schemes offer, in many ways, financial support to eligible pre-primary, primary, secondary and post-secondary students.  The annual recurrent expenditure involved exceeds $3.1 billion, benefiting as many as 360 000 students, or around 34 per cent of the total number of students.  The Government will give needy students greater support to ensure that their studies will not be affected by lack of financial means.

130. I propose to relax the income ceiling for the full level of student financial assistance under the means test mechanism starting from the 2011-12 academic year.  It is estimated that for the 2011-12 academic year, this measure will provide full assistance to about 75 000 additional students at all levels of study, comprising 64 000 pre-primary, primary and secondary students and 11 000 post-secondary students.  The number of students receiving full assistance will increase from currently about 110 000 to approximately 190 000, representing 50 per cent of the total number of recipients.  This proposal is expected to involve an additional recurrent expenditure of around $300 million a year.

131. I propose to adjust the existing tiers of financial assistance for post-secondary students so that more students will be granted full assistance while those not on full assistance will also receive more.  In the 2011-12 academic year, about 30 000 post-secondary students will be granted full assistance and approximately 22 000 will receive more assistance.  This proposal is expected to involve an additional recurrent expenditure of about $140 million a year.

132. I also propose to increase the grants for academic expenses for post-secondary students starting from the 2011-12 academic year.  They will be given additional grants, subject to the outcome of their means test, for the acquisition, replacement or enhancement of necessary study aids, including computer and related equipment.  Each post-secondary student receiving full assistance will be entitled to an additional grant of $1,000 every year.  This proposal will involve an additional recurrent expenditure of about $48 million a year.

After-school Homework Guidance

133. I am aware that many parents of low-income families want their children to receive homework guidance after school.  To that end, I have earmarked $110 million to launch a three-year pilot programme in primary schools.  The Education Bureau will collaborate with local tertiary institutions to encourage and enlist tertiary students, especially those full-time students interested in joining the teaching profession, to provide after-school homework guidance for students from low-income families and help them with their studies.

Award of Scholarships

134. We award scholarships to recognise the excellent performance of outstanding students and attract quality students to study in Hong Kong.  The existing HKSAR Government Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to students taking publicly-funded degree programmes.  The proposed Self-financing Post-secondary Education Fund will offer scholarships to those enrolled on self-financing post-secondary programmes.  I propose to inject $250 million into the HKSAR Government Scholarship Fund to extend the benefit to students of publicly-funded sub-degree programmes.

Mainland Experience Scheme for Post-secondary Students

135. I have always encouraged young people to see for themselves and learn more about our country¡¦s latest development.  I propose to allocate $100 million to launch a five-year pilot scheme to subsidise on a matching basis local tertiary students participating in short-term internship or learning programmes in the Mainland, including visits, exchanges or voluntary services.  Participants will be able to learn about the prevailing social, economic and cultural landscapes of our country through these programmes.  Each student may receive a subsidy of up to $3,000.  It is estimated that over 30 000 students will benefit from the Scheme.

Training and Retraining

136. Apart from furthering their studies, young people may pursue pre-employment training in various areas according to their abilities and aspirations.  By so doing, they will prepare themselves for career development.  For those who are already in employment, retraining facilitates their career advancement or change.  To meet these different needs, the Vocational Training Council (VTC) and the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) provide courses to assist participants in acquiring vocational skills and recognised qualifications with a view to enhancing their employability and competitiveness.

137. The ERB will provide 130 000 training places in 2011-12.  These places are targeted at non-engaged youths, middle-aged people who need to change jobs, ethnic minorities and new arrivals seeking employment in the local job market.  The ERB has reserved resources for the provision of 30 000 additional places when necessary.

138. The VTC now offers 235 000 training places, providing people of different education levels with pre-employment and in-service vocational education and training programmes.  These programmes include Higher Diploma courses, in-service short training programmes, training programmes for non-engaged youths and apprentice training.  The VTC also implements a trade testing and certification system to help participants obtain recognised qualifications.  

139. The Government will provide a recurrent subvention of about $1.94 billion to the VTC in 2011-12 to meet the community's demand for vocational education and training programmes.  These programmes also offer fresh graduates another good option, other than pursuing further studies and seeking jobs, for achieving self-reliance and self-enhancement.

Employment Support

140. To better serve job seekers' needs, along with the implementation of the statutory minimum wage, the Labour Department (LD) will strengthen employment services for young and middle-aged people and those with disabilities.  At the end of last year, the LD launched a two-year Pilot Employment Navigator Programme, providing a total of 22 000 places, to help the unemployed secure employment.  Participants will receive customised employment counselling services and will be granted a cash incentive if they subsequently secure and stay in a job.  At the end of this year, the LD will set up a pioneer one-stop employment and training centre in Tin Shui Wai to provide integrated services of the LD, SWD and ERB, with a view to offering more targeted employment assistance.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:29