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ExCo member speaks on Budget

The following is issued on behalf of the Executive Council Secretariat:

     Following is a transcript (English portion) of a meet-the-media session by the Convenor of the Non-official Members of the Executive Council (ExCo), Mr Ronald Arculli, at the Legislative Council Complex this afternoon (February 1):

Convenor of the ExCo Non-official Members: I think one of the highlights of the Budget speech today by the Financial Secretary is the fact that he drew our attention to the increase in recurrent Government expenditure over the past five years being at the level of 33 per cent, compared to 21 per cent growth in our GDP. The emphasis obviously is on livelihood issues. This year's Budget emphasises on education, on health care as well as on social welfare, but on the other hand, also the extensive infrastructure investments which really lay a very sound foundation for us in the medium and longer term for Hong Kong's continued economic growth.

     And bear in mind that during the past five years, we've had much more economic and global financial turmoil and trouble than ever before. And in fact, we are still in that current phase. So I think the foundation that this Administration has laid is very sound, and it is a good point of time with decent reserves to hand over to the incoming Administration in the middle of this year.

Reporter: What do you foresee as the challenges the city is going to face in the next year?

Convenor of the ExCo Non-official Members: I think, as we all know, we are affected by external events, much more perhaps than any other communities simply because we are a very small but very open economy. So, the challenges that are confronting the European sovereign debt crisis, the slow economic growth, or the lack thereof, in the European zone, as well as in the America. And of course Asia is still very much an export-oriented economy, so for the Asian economy to try and replace part of the drop in the exports that has happened in the past couple of years, and may continue to happen for another year or two, with domestic consumption is not something that you can achieve overnight. So this adjustment is important. But I think the good news of course is that we will still have growth despite the fact that organisations like the World Bank or IMF have lowered the Asian growth story a little bit for the next year or two.

Reporter: What do you say regarding comments that the Budget is not doing enough for Hong Kong's growing elderly population?

Convenor of the ExCo Non-official Members: I believe that you need to strike a balance. I think the biggest challenge confronting us on the elderly is the numbers. If you look at the numbers that the Financial Secretary mentioned today, currently we have about 900 000; when we get to 2030, it would be 2.1 million. That's an increase of 1.2 million. Now with that comes a lot of responsibilities, not just in pure monetary terms, but also you need the services, think about the medical, think about where they live, etc.

     And that's why I think over the past years you have noticed a gradual relaxation of certain restrictions regarding where the elderly live post-retirement and where are they are able also to draw on things like the CSSA, the old age allowance, etc. You should have asked Dr Leong. Like me, he is part of the elderly, but he is also in charge of the Elderly Commission.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:09


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