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Transcript of remarks by SLW on retirement protection
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     Following is the transcript of remarks made by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, on retirement protection this morning (January 24):

Reporter: A recent survey shows that actually a lot of people support the universal pension scheme. How do you feel about the recent survey?

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: Well, views are divided, of course, on the issue of retirement protection in Hong Kong. There are those who are in favour of a scheme which covers everybody, we call it "regardless of rich or poor". And also, there is equal support for a so-called targeted approach, in other words, only those with financial needs will get it. We keep an open mind on this exercise. In fact, the Chief Secretary for Administration and I attended the first public forum on retirement protection yesterday and of course views are divided as expected. But the most important thing is in looking at retirement protection, we have got to take a holistic view, a comprehensive view, and also bear in mind that whatever scheme that will come up at the end of the day must be viable, financially sustainable in the long term, and also affordable by the community and the government, and of course in terms of operation is also viable in the long term, particularly in the long-term interests of Hong Kong.

     But let me stress that the current-term government is very concerned about the well-being of the elderly, that is why nine months into office we have rolled out the Old Age Living Allowance, which now benefits 430 000 elderly in Hong Kong. We have also enhanced all the services, in terms of hardware and software, in providing elderly care. We have also rolled out the $2 public transport concessionary scheme (Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities), which now benefits 830 000 passenger trips made by elderly citizens in Hong Kong every day. We have also been increasing the welfare payment, starting on February 1, by 4.4 per cent, in keeping up with inflation. Now, we are doing what we can on all fronts to help the elderly in Hong Kong. But when it comes to retirement protection, we have got to take a rational and informed approach, and also ...(inaudible)... really improve the well-being of elderly citizens in Hong Kong.

Reporter: Are you worried that there will be aggressive protests again in the next consultation forum?

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: I am not worried at all, in fact. I really hope that whoever joining the consultation in the future will take a rational and balanced approach because we are determined to improve the well-being of our senior citizens in Hong Kong. It is very important to mention that this is the first time, after the 1997 handover, that the government really proactively takes up the issue of retirement protection, and we are determined to come up with a way forward that is viable and also sustainable in the long term.

Reporter: Are you trying to say that the universal pension scheme is not that sustainable financially?

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: Well, if you look at the projections and also the financial analyses, it is quite clear that the scheme itself is, in the long term íV you have to bear in mind that if you are talking about an approach which covers everybody, then the question is who pays for it? Who is going to foot the bill? Inevitably, this revolves around a few things: the implications on public finances, we have got to be responsible in terms of public finances. If we have got to raise tax, of course it has got to be affordable for Hong Kong, or it would erode Hong Kong's long-term competitiveness and all that. Now, all these are factors that have to be borne in mind very carefully.

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

Ends/Sunday, January 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:40

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