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Government's response to January 1 procession

     In response to the public procession today (January 1), a Government spokesman said that infrastructure investment helps boost Hong Kong's economic development, creates job opportunities, improves people's quality of life and enhances Hong Kong's long-term competitiveness. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government will spare no efforts in implementing these projects.

     "Large-scale infrastructure projects, such as the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the airport's three-runway system, can bring long-term economic and social benefits to Hong Kong. Apart from underpinning Hong Kong's status as a transport and aviation hub, these projects are expected to open up numerous job opportunities for various sectors as well as promote trade and cultural exchanges, benefiting the community at large," the spokesman said.

     The Government has all along been adopting long-term and visionary planning and implementing infrastructure projects in a timely manner. Beyond mega infrastructure projects, the Government has invested a lot of resources in livelihood-related projects, including hospitals, schools, community facilities, roads, drainage and waterworks, with a view to providing quality facilities for the general public.

     The spokesman said, "We will adhere to the principle of prudent management for public funds and prioritise projects with due regard to their urgency and cost-effectiveness. If some infrastructure projects are to grind to a halt, it is inevitable that people will not be able to enjoy the benefits that these projects can bring about. It will also adversely affect Hong Kong's long-term economic growth and the livelihood of those employed in the engineering, construction and other related sectors.

     "We have always made our best endeavours in formulating project estimates. However, certain unforeseeable factors, including legal challenges, may increase the costs for individual projects. In line with the principle of prudent management of public money, we will not allow excessive provision in the project estimates in order to avoid resources being locked up unnecessarily and affecting the implementation of other projects. Generally speaking, we manage to complete the projects not only within the original approved estimates, but also well below the budget.

     "We will strive to improve the method of project estimation and enhance cost control measures. We will also closely monitor the project expenditures to ensure the accuracy of project estimates and proper spending.

     "Resolving land supply and housing problems is of utmost importance to the current-term Government. Land development had been falling behind in the past 10 years or so. In the face of continued growth of the population and the number of households, the need for supporting facilities given the ageing population and land demand driven by different economic activities as well as demand for residential flats and floor space for industrial and commercial uses, we need to catch up and increase land supply. For example, we have to expeditiously take forward the New Development Areas in Kwu Tung North, Fanling North and Hung Shui Kiu; the Tung Chung New Town Extension; and other planned land supply projects in the short, medium and long term in order to support the sustainable development of our society and economy."

     The Government is determined and committed to enhancing the well-being of elderly people. In this connection, the Chief Executive tasked the Commission on Poverty (CoP) to identify ways to enhance Hong Kong's multi-pillar retirement protection together with the community, and earmarked $50 billion to provide for future needs.

     "The CoP has launched a six-month public engagement exercise to gauge public views on how to improve Hong Kong's retirement protection system. The scope of the consultation is comprehensive. Apart from addressing the core issue on the principle to be adopted to provide better income protection for the elderly, it also reviews the other pillars including the social security system, the Mandatory Provident Fund System, public services, family support and personal savings and assets. We encourage the public to make good use of this six-month period to express their views through various channels," the spokesman said.

     Academic freedom is an important social value treasured by Hong Kong and protected by the Basic Law. It is also a cornerstone of the higher education sector. The HKSAR Government attaches great importance to upholding academic freedom and institutional autonomy. The eight University Grants Committee-funded institutions are all independent and autonomous statutory bodies. They have their own governing ordinances and statutes which set out their objectives, functions and governance structure. The legislation provides the institutions with the power and freedom to carry out their objectives and functions.

     As for the appointment of chairpersons and members to the councils of universities, the Government's decisions are based on the merits of individuals, including their ability, expertise, experience, integrity and commitment to public service. The Government will also consider the operation of universities and the development needs of higher education in Hong Kong in making appropriate appointments.

Ends/Friday, January 1, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:30


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