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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (7)
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An Ageing Population

120. Hong Kong people enjoy a life expectancy which is among the longest in the world - 81 years for men and 86 years for women.  The population aged 65 or above will surge from 980 000 at present, or 14 per cent of the total population, to 2 560 000 by 2041, or 30 per cent of the total population.  Of these, about 960 000 will be aged 80 or over.

Elderly Services

121. Recurrent expenditure on elderly services has increased more than 40 per cent from $3.8 billion to $5.4 billion over the past five years.  From 2014-15, we shall increase annual expenditure in this area with an additional funding of more than $660 million to implement and enhance the following four areas of elderly services and facilities.  This covers íV

(a) some $170 million for providing 1 500 additional places for the Enhanced Home and Community Care Services, and widening the scope of home care services for these additional places and the existing 5 600 places to strengthen our support for frail elderly persons living at home;

(b) some $160 million for upgrading 51 social centres for the elderly to neighbourhood elderly centres, and enabling all subvented elderly centres to increase their manpower as well as programme expenses.  The purposes are to enhance the support for elderly people as well as processing care needs assessment and service applications for long-term care services;

(c) some $200 million for raising the subsidies for places under the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme (EBPS) and the Nursing Home Place Purchase Scheme, upgrading subvented nursing home places to provide continuum of care, and enhancing the service of the three new contract homes.  These aim to enhance care and support for the elderly; and

(d) $120 million for providing some 950 new subsidised residential care places for the elderly through the commencement of new contract homes, the purchase of additional places under EBPS, and as a pilot, the purchase of residential care places from elderly homes run by Hong Kong non-governmental organisations in the Mainland.

122. We have tasked the Elderly Commission to prepare an Elderly Services Programme Plan within two years.  The Commission will also explore the feasibility of introducing residential care service vouchers for the elderly.  About $800 million has been earmarked to issue a total of 3 000 residential care services vouchers in phases within three years from 2015-16.  Government will inject $10 billion into the Lotteries Fund to implement the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses to provide additional places for elderly and rehabilitation services.

Healthcare

123. Over the past five years, Government's recurrent allocation to the Hospital Authority (HA) has increased by $15 billion, or nearly 50 per cent.  The total recurrent provision for 2014-15 exceeds $47 billion.

124. On infrastructure, we commenced the construction of Tin Shui Wai Hospital and Hong Kong Children's Hospital.  The preparatory works for the expansion of United Christian Hospital and redevelopment of Kwong Wah Hospital have started.  We shall seek this Council's funding approval for the redevelopment of Queen Mary Hospital and Kwai Chung Hospital, as well as the expansion of Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service Headquarters.  We shall spend $55 billion on these projects as part of an ongoing effort to improve public healthcare facilities and provide 1 400 additional hospital beds.  Besides, we are conducting strategic studies on the construction of an acute general hospital in the Kai Tak Development Area.  In the longer term, the HA will start planning for the redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth Hospital and phase two redevelopment project of Prince of Wales Hospital to address the community's long term demand for healthcare services.

125. A grant of $13 billion was approved by this Council in late 2013 for the HA to improve and upgrade its facilities over the next 10 years.  This covers the renovation of over 500 wards in 34 hospitals; provision of around 800 additional beds in 11 hospitals; expansion of operating theatres, accident and emergency departments, and general out-patient clinics; and setting up additional endoscopy centres and ambulatory facilities, etc.  The HA will also comprehensively upgrade the major electrical and mechanical engineering installations in hospitals and strengthen the Universal Accessibility Programme.  It is estimated that the grant will be used to implement about 5 000 projects.  These projects will complement the major new hospital and hospital redevelopment projects to prepare for an ageing population.

126. In pursuit of the healthy and sustainable development of our dual-track healthcare system, Government is considering a voluntary health protection scheme to encourage those who can afford it to make greater use of private healthcare services.  I pledged in the 2008-09 Budget to earmark $50 billion to support healthcare reform.  The Food and Health Bureau will shortly consult the public on the details of the scheme.  I shall consider providing tax reliefs for subscribers of regulated insurance products after a consensus is reached in the community.

127. Disease prevention and control forms an important line of defence in public health.  Government has endeavoured to strengthen primary care, including proactively promoting healthy living, as well as strengthening disease prevention strategies and surveillance systems, with a view to lowering risks of disease and hence expenditure on healthcare.  In the coming five years, Government will allocate additional funding of over $420 million for the study and implementation of a pilot programme to subsidise colorectal cancer screening for specific age groups.

128. Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others point out that increasing tobacco duty is an effective means of tobacco control to lower the health risks of the public.  It helps reduce direct medical expenses caused by smoking and second-hand smoking.  To safeguard public health, I propose to increase the duty on cigarettes by 20 cents per stick with immediate effect.  This will bring the proportion of tobacco duty to the retail price of cigarettes to about 70 per cent which meets the minimum level recommended by  WHO.  I wish to emphasise that this is not a budgetary measure to increase revenue.  We shall continue to strengthen smoking cessation services, as well as publicity and law enforcement on tobacco control.  The Customs and Excise Department will step up enforcement against different forms of illicit cigarette trading.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:11

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