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Budget Speech by the Financial Secretary (7)

Commercial Land

130. In 2014-15, Government put up for sale a total of five sites for commercial/industrial use and one for hotel development, providing 180 000 square metres of floor area and 1 100 rooms respectively.  The Land Sale Programme for the coming financial year will include four sites for commercial/business use and one for hotel development, providing 180 000 square metres of floor area and 500 rooms respectively.
131. We shall increase the supply of commercial floor area through other channels, including relocating government offices away from core business districts.  The plan will not only release valuable sites for commercial use, but also generate more economic activities and employment opportunities in various districts.

132. The government offices in the Trade and Industry Department Tower in Mong Kok will be relocated to the Kai Tak Development Area starting in the middle of this year, releasing 18 000 square metres of commercial floor area.

133. We are actively taking forward our plan to relocate the three government office buildings in Wan Chai.  The 29 departments accommodated there will be relocated in phases to buildings under planning in various districts, including West Kowloon, Cheung Sha Wan, Kai Tak, Chai Wan and Tseung Kwan O.  This will progressively release 175 000 square metres of commercial floor area and increase the supply of Grade A office space in Wan Chai.

Ageing Population

134. The ageing population is a formidable challenge to us.  Our labour force will decline as from 2018 and our economic vibrancy will be dampened.  The growth of the elderly population will push up demands for healthcare and elderly services, thus increasing public expenditure.  We shall encourage the potential workforce to enter or re-enter the labour market.  We shall continue to allocate resources to improve healthcare and elderly services.

Encouraging Employment

135. Economic growth is mainly contingent on the working population and its productivity.  Encouraging more women and older persons to join the workforce will help boost our economic growth.

136. I shall allocate $130 million to strengthen child care services, thus providing support for women to achieve a work-family balance.  This year, we shall extend the coverage of on-the-job training allowance under the Employment Programme for the Middle-aged to encourage the employment of older persons to take up part-time jobs.  The Employees Retraining Board will also focus on providing training for older persons, among other target groups, and help them re-join the job market.

137. I shall earmark $220 million to extend for two years the Integrated Employment Assistance Programme for Self-reliance, which encourages employable able-bodied CSSA recipients to secure employment and achieve self-reliance.

138. The Labour Department will also continue to employ, on a trial basis, ethnic minority trainees under the Youth Employment and Training Programme as employment services ambassadors to provide employment services to other ethnic minority job seekers.

139. I encourage employers to introduce more flexible working arrangements.  I hope they would allow employees to work from home, or offer part-time and job sharing alternatives, to enable more people with family commitments to join the workforce.


140. With ageing population, Government will continue to increase resources on healthcare.  In 2015-16, Government's recurrent allocation to the Hospital Authority (HA) will be $49 billion, up by nearly 50 per cent over five years ago.

141. To cater for the long-term demand for healthcare services, we shall carry out a number of hospital projects.  Projects already under construction or planning include the development of an acute general hospital in the Kai Tak Development Area (Phase 1), Tin Shui Wai Hospital and Hong Kong Children's Hospital; the redevelopment of Kwong Wah Hospital and Queen Mary Hospital; and the expansion of United Christian Hospital.  A total of 2 800 additional beds will be provided.  The works expenditure is estimated at $81 billion.

142. In the 2008-09 Budget, I earmarked $50 billion to support healthcare reform.  I shall, in light of public views, inject funds into the high risk pool under the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme, and provide tax concession for subscribers to regulated insurance products.  To alleviate pressure on the public healthcare system due to manpower shortages and surge in demand, I shall set up a fund for HA to make use of investment returns for public-private partnership initiatives.  One of these is to extend in phases the General Out-patient Clinic Public-Private Partnership Programme to all 18 districts.  I shall also offer loans to non-profit-making organisations for private hospital development to address the acute shortage of private hospital beds.  The remaining sum will be reserved for general use, including provision of support for public hospital projects.

Retirement Protection

143. Government has, since the 1960s, been studying different forms of retirement protection, on which there have been wide discussions and diverse views in the community.  The Commission on Poverty will consult the public again on retirement protection in the latter half of this year.
144. The sustainability of retirement protection must be a prime concern. "Pay-as-you-go" retirement protection means that the contributions from today's employees and employers are used to pay the pensions of retirees of the previous generation.  In other words, funding for retirement protection for people in this generation is to be borne by the next generation.

145. Overseas experiences suggest that, as population ages, the proportion of dependants to the working population increases, retirement protection on a "pay-as-you-go" basis eventually becomes unsustainable.  There would either be less protection for the dependent population or heavier burden on the working population.  We should consider carefully the consequences of this scenario when we discuss retirement protection.

146. Irrespective of the community's choice for the way forward on this issue, the community's consensus is to provide better retirement protection for the elderly in need.  I shall set aside $50 billion for this purpose.

(To be continued.)

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:08


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