Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (12)

Supporting the Disadvantaged

141. Recurrent expenditure on social welfare for 2011-12 is expected to reach $42.2 billion, an increase of $4.2 billion when compared with 2010-11.  It is the policy area group which registers the greatest growth in expenditure, reflecting our commitment to supporting the disadvantaged.

New Arrivals and Ethnic Minorities

142. In 2011-12, the Home Affairs Department (HAD) will be given more resources and will set up a dedicated team to strengthen and integrate the support services for new arrivals and ethnic minorities.  We will make good use of district networks and the services of district organisations and non-government organisations (NGOs) to better facilitate the integration of new arrivals and ethnic minorities into the community.  We will introduce three major initiatives: launching district-based integration programmes; organising activities for prospective migrants from the Mainland to help them better understand the local environment before they come to live here; and introducing services to ethnic minorities and new arrivals by arranging for those with similar backgrounds and experiences to reach out to them, and to make referrals to government departments where necessary.

143. Since 2009, we have sponsored NGOs to run four centres to provide comprehensive support services to ethnic minorities, including counselling and referral service, interpretation service, training classes, after-school tutorial classes and various integration programmes.  To date, over 50 000 participants have benefited from the services.  The four centres now receive an annual sponsorship of over $20 million.

Taking Care of the Elderly

144. To pursue the policy objective of "ageing in place", the Government will continue to allocate resources to support elders to age at home.  I propose to increase annual recurrent funding by $76 million to provide about 1 700 additional places for community care services for elders, including 1 500 places for the Enhanced Home and Community Care Services and about 200 day care places for the elderly.  I also propose to increase annual recurrent funding for the well-received pilot Integrated Discharge Support Programme for Elderly Patients by $148 million to make it a regular service and extend its coverage from the current three districts to all districts.  Under the Programme, one-stop support services will be provided for elderly people discharged from hospitals to help them make a quick recovery.  Upon the full extension of the Programme, the number of elders benefited each year is expected to increase from the current 8 000 to around 33 000.

145. On residential care services, the Chief Executive has announced in his Policy Address that the Government will provide additional subsidised residential care places by building new residential care homes, making full use of the space of existing homes and offering more places under the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme.  I propose an increase of $130 million in the annual recurrent funding to provide about 1 300 additional subsidised residential care places, including nursing home places, care-and-attention places and places offering a continuum of care.

146. To enhance the service quality of residential care homes under the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme, I propose to increase annual recurrent funding by $40 million to raise the purchase prices for EA1 places.  The residential care homes concerned will be required to provide physiotherapy treatment and rehabilitation training for the elderly.  This will also help enhance the quality of private residential care homes.

147. In addition, I propose to increase annual recurrent funding by $45 million to raise the supplements for subsidised residential care homes so that they can take better care of demented or infirm elders.  The coverage of the Dementia Supplements will also be extended to all subsidised day care centres for the provision of more targeted services to patients residing in the community.

Reverse Mortgage

148. The HKMC announced in December 2010 its plan to launch a reverse mortgage pilot scheme in which elderly people will be able to use their properties as collateral to borrow mortgage loans from banks and receive a certain amount of cash every month while continuing to live in their properties for the rest of their lives.

149. After the HKMC announced its plan, many people have expressed their support but also suggested ways to improve the plan.  The HKMC has agreed to fine-tune the scheme.  For example, borrowers will be allowed to draw in advance a certain amount of loans from banks in case of special needs to pay for medical expenses, building maintenance fees, etc.  The amount of annuity payable to single borrowers will be raised while the fees for joining the scheme will be lowered or waived as far as possible.  These changes are made to better meet the needs of the elderly, providing them with an alternative to improve their standard of living.  Details of the scheme will be announced by the HKMC shortly.

Elderly Health Care Vouchers

150. The Government launched the three-year Elderly Health Care Voucher Pilot Scheme in January 2009.  Under the Pilot Scheme, elderly citizens aged 70 or above are each offered health care vouchers of $250 annually to subsidise their use of private primary health care services.  Having completed the interim review of the Pilot Scheme, we propose to extend the Pilot Scheme for another three years, double the value of health care vouchers to $500 per person per year, and strengthen the monitoring of voucher utilisation under the Pilot Scheme.  I will allocate $1 billion to implement this proposal.  The Secretary for Food and Health will announce the review report and detailed proposal in due course.

Providing Support to Elders and Persons with Disabilities and in Ill-health

151. I propose to raise the standard rates for adult CSSA recipients under the age of 60 with disabilities and in ill-health to the same level as those for elderly CSSA recipients in similar health conditions.  This will more effectively help the recipients concerned make ends meet.  The proposal will involve an additional annual recurrent expenditure of $328 million and is expected to benefit about 55 000 people.

152. The community living supplement is currently payable to severely disabled CSSA recipients.  I propose to extend the supplement to cover recipients with disabilities at non-severe level, recipients in ill-health and elders.  I also propose to increase the monthly supplement from the existing $120 to $250 to better support the recipients' stay in the community.  This proposal will involve an additional annual recurrent expenditure of about $590 million and is expected to benefit about 190 000 recipients.

153. It is the policy objective of the Government to provide the disabled with a barrier-free environment in order to help them live independently and integrate into the community.  In 2011-12, relevant government departments will allocate more than $120 million to upgrade the existing barrier-free access facilities in government premises.  We aim to complete 3 300 improvement works projects within the current term of the Government.  To take forward the design works and retrofitting of barrier-free access facilities at about 180 public footbridges and subways, we also plan to seek approval of this Council for over $280 million this year.  Our target is to complete the bulk of the works by 2016-17.

Mental Health Services

154. The Government will provide additional funding of over $210 million to the HA in 2011-12 for strengthening support for people with mental illnesses.

155. First, the Case Management Programme targeted at patients with severe mental illness will be extended to five more districts, thereby increasing the number of beneficiaries from 5 000 in 2010-11 to 11 000 in 2011-12.  Crisis intervention teams will be set up in all HA clusters to handle emergency referrals at the community level and follow up on high risk patients.  It is expected that about 1 000 patients will benefit from this new measure each year.  The Integrated Mental Health Programme will also be extended to cover all HA clusters to provide assessment and consultation services in the primary care setting for patients with common mental disorder.  It is expected that the number of beneficiaries will increase to about 7 000 each year.

156. Furthermore, the Early Assessment and Detection of Young Persons with Psychosis Programme will be expanded to cover adults.  It is expected to provide services to an additional 600 or so beneficiaries in 2011-12.  The psychogeriatric outreach services will also be extended to cover about 80 additional residential care homes for the elderly in 2011-12.  Regarding mental health services for children and adolescents, dedicated professional teams will be expanded to provide services for an additional 3 000 or so children with autism or hyperactivity disorder each year.

Medical and Health Services

Public Health Care Services

157. We have pledged to increase health expenditure to 17 per cent of recurrent government expenditure by 2012.  We are working towards the target.  In 2011-12, the estimated recurrent expenditure on health will be $39.9 billion, which accounts for 16.5 per cent of recurrent government expenditure and represents an increase of more than $3 billion over 2010-11.

158. Apart from the new mental health services I just mentioned, the HA will use the additional funding to strengthen a range of other services.  Taking into consideration the latest scientific evidence and medical technology development, it will enhance the efficacy of treating nine diseases by incorporating more drugs into the Hospital Authority Drug Formulary.  It is estimated that 52 000 patients will benefit from this initiative each year.  The HA will also conduct comprehensive health risk assessments for patients with hypertension and diabetes, and over 167 000 patients are expected to benefit from this service by the end of March 2012.  The HA will also, through the collaboration between multi-disciplinary teams, enhance palliative care for patients with terminal cancer and end stage organ failure.  It is estimated that an additional 2 500 patients will benefit from this measure in 2011-12.

159. As for shortening the waiting time for specialist services, it is estimated that public hospitals will perform 3 000 additional cataract operations and another 3 000 patients will receive subsidy for cataract surgery in the private sector in 2011-12.  The establishment of an additional specialist centre for joint replacement in 2011-12 will enable about 400 additional operations to be performed each year.  The HA also plans to provide magnetic resonance imaging services to 3 400 additional patients and computerised tomography scanning services to 3 000 additional patients each year starting from 2011-12.

160. To enhance the regulation of pharmaceutical products, the Department of Health (DH) has taken measures to strengthen the experience requirements for Authorised Persons of pharmaceutical manufacturers.  It also requires all local manufacturers to adopt the enhanced microbiological monitoring model, and has stepped up the inspection and monitoring of manufacturers and wholesalers.  In 2011-12, the Government will allocate $31 million additional funding to strengthen the regulation of drugs, including the establishment of a dedicated office on drugs in the DH.  The provisions under the Chinese Medicine Ordinance on the mandatory registration of propriety Chinese medicines (pCm) have taken effect, and those relating to the label and package insert requirements will come into force at the end of this year.  We will allocate an additional $8.4 million for the formulation of Good Manufacturing Practice (i.e. GMP) and the introduction of pharmacovigilance to raise the production standard of local pCm manufacturers.

Tobacco Control

161. Studies by the World Health Organization have clearly shown that increasing tobacco duty is an effective means of tobacco control.  For public health protection, I propose to increase the duty on cigarettes by $0.5 per stick or 41.5 per cent.  Duties on other tobacco products will also be increased by the same percentage.  The above adjustments take immediate effect by way of a Public Revenue Protection Order gazetted today.  The Customs and Excise Department will step up law enforcement to contain cigarette smuggling.  We will also make greater effort to provide smoking cessation services.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:43