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CS speaks on population policy (with video)

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Stephen Lam, at a media session after attending a luncheon today (May 30):

Reporter: What plans do you have in hand that makes you reasonably confident at the moment that you can accomplish from 30,000 to zero in the same year?

Chief Secretary for Administration: Well I would say that if we could achieve reducing, originally our intention was to reduce the quota set for Mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong to below 30,000, perhaps closer to 20,000 for 2013. Over time this would progressively achieve a soft landing for the issue. But if we can achieve a zero quota for 2013 this would provide an immediate solution to the problem rather than a hard landing, because the very position that has already been announced has had a deterrent effect on people wishing to come here to give birth. The friends I've spoken to in the Mainland now tell me that the position announced by the Chief Executive-elect has had a deterrent effect on people planning to come to Hong Kong to give birth. Also, after July 1, 2012, as soon as the fourth term government comes into office, the relevant bureaus and departments will come up with administrative measures and other measures to try to deal with the situation. This is our objective and over the years our Food and Health Bureau, our Immigration Department have been very methodical, very practical in coming up with measures to address this issue and Im confident that they will continue to do so.

Reporter: Will you not need those very babies that you are trying to prevent from being born here now?

Chief Secretary for Administration: It is a fact that the fertility rate in Hong Kong is low, it is currently standing at about 1.1 per couple. This is well below the 2.1 replacement rate which is necessary for us to maintain the population as it stands at about 7 million. But aside from births in Hong Kong we do take in a lot of people every year V we take in over 40,000 people through the one-way permit system. We take in over 30,000 through the general employment scheme and also, these babies which are born, which have been born, at some point in time will return to Hong Kong. So the report actually forecasts that in the longer run Hong Kongs population will continue to grow, and grow beyond 8 million. The important issue that we need to address is, how do we maintain Hong Kong's economic growth and how do we deal with an ageing population. These are issues which any advanced economy, including OECD economies, have to address. But in Hong Kong we have better means of addressing this because we have accumulated substantial reserves over the years. Our government budget is in balance. We do not have an ongoing deficit situation. Hong Kong's private sector continues to be very productive, and that is why in setting out all these issues we want to provide a structure of policy analysis layer by layer, so that in future, for the fourth term government they can V my future colleagues can V take things forward.

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

Ends/Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Issued at HKT 19:09


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