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LCQ6: Retirement protection
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Lau Siu-lai and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (November 23):


     From December last year to June this year, the Commission on Poverty (CoP) conducted a public engagement exercise on retirement protection.  An independent consultant has been commissioned to collate, consolidate and analyse all the views received during the public consultation and to submit a report (public views report) by the end of this year.  At the same time, quite a number of community groups separately held a number of consultation forums and some academic institutions conducted opinion surveys, during which a total of about 18 000 submissions were received and a majority of the public views supported the implementation of a universal non-means-tested retirement protection option.  On the other hand, the Subcommittee on Retirement Protection of the last Legislative Council held a number of public hearings on the matter and submitted its report (the Subcommittee’s report) in July this year, urging the incumbent Government to formulate a concrete execution plan for retirement protection within its term of office. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the public views report will incorporate all of the views collected through the community groups' consultation exercises and the opinion surveys, the views set out in the aforesaid some 18 000 submissions, as well as the views in the Subcommittee's report; if the report will not, of the reasons for that; if the report will, given that the simulated options, developed on the bases of the "regardless of rich or poor" principle and the "those with financial needs" principle and put forward by CoP in its consultation document, are different from the universal retirement protection options which have all along been discussed in the community, whether the authorities know how the independent consultant will handle, in the public views report, such views collected on such different bases;

(2) whether it has drawn up the contents and timetable for the follow-up actions after the publication of the public views report; if it has, of the details; on the premise that the public views report indicates that the majority of the public views support the establishment of a universal non-means-tested retirement protection system, whether the Government will undertake to the public that it will implement right away such a retirement protection system in accordance with the consultation outcome; and

(3) as the Chief Executive (CE) has promised in his election manifesto to "set aside adequate moneys in a special Fund" to support the elderly, of the current implementation progress of such policy; as CE indicated when attending a forum during his election campaign that "implementing universal retirement protection needs not to be on a spectacular scale, but requires earnestness", and some grassroots members of the public therefore have high expectations on the authorities' realisation of universal retirement protection, whether it has assessed, under the circumstances that the CE fails to fulfill the pledge he made during the election in respect of implementing a retirement protection system within his term of office, if CE and the Chief Secretary for Administration in her capacity as the Chairperson of CoP should be held accountable to the public in this regard?

Reply :
     My reply to the question raised by the Dr Hon Lau Siu-lai is as follows:
     In December 2015, the Commission on Poverty (CoP) led by the Chief Secretary for Administration launched a six-month public engagement exercise to gauge public views on ways to enhance Hong Kong’s retirement protection system.  The Government agrees that the multi-pillar retirement protection system currently adopted in Hong Kong should be improved to provide better protection for the retirees and $50 billion has been set aside for this purpose.
     During the six-month public engagement exercise, government officials and members of the CoP organised or attended a total of 110 different types of public engagement activities to listen to the views of various sectors of the community on retirement protection, including organising public forums, attending House Committee special meetings and other subcommittee meetings of the Legislative Council, visiting the 18 District Councils, holding consultation sessions with government advisory bodies, attending meetings with other organisations (including those held by community groups), conducting stakeholders' meetings and attending youth exchange sessions and talks.
     The public engagement exercise on retirement protection ended on June 21 this year.  An independent consultant commissioned by the Government is consolidating the views collected during the consultation period through different channels, including discussions at subcommittee meetings of the Legislative Council, public opinion polls on retirement protection carried out by various organisations during the consultation period, as well as over 18 000 written submissions.  The views that we received touch upon a wide variety of subjects.  Apart from the two major approaches of "regardless of rich or poor" and "those with financial needs", there were also views about the Mandatory Provident Fund (including the "offsetting" issue debated by Members last week), voluntary savings, annuity scheme, family support, and healthcare and elderly services.  This shows that for the public, retirement protection is not confined to providing financial assistance but straddles many areas of concern.  The poll results sourced through different channels also showed divergent views, depending on the design and wording of the questionnaires concerned.  For example, according to the public opinion polls conducted by The University of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong during the public engagement exercise, respondents had diverse views about the "regardless of rich or poor" and "those with financial needs" approaches.  We expect that the consultancy report will be submitted to the CoP by the end of this year.
     I would like to point out that the Government has never made any commitment to provide a "universal retirement protection" as mentioned by Dr Hon Lau.  On the contrary, on various public occasions, the Chief Executive, the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary and myself have stressed that given the rapidly growing elderly population and limited public resources in Hong Kong, the allocation of resources must be targeted and specific enough to address the problem of elderly poverty effectively.
     The Government aims to set a clear future policy direction on retirement protection within this term of the Government.  As the implementation of the relevant measures is complicated and will necessarily take time, it may need to be followed up by the Government of the next term.  In mapping out the way forward, we will fully consider the views of the public and the community and take into account other factors including its implications on public finances and the economy, as well as the issue of targeting the distribution of resources at those in need.
Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:45
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