Opening remarks by CE at Chief Executive's Question and Answer Session (with video)
Mr President and Honourable Members,
Today is my first attendance at a Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting in 2018. May I first take this opportunity to wish you all success and good health in this new year. In response to Members’ request, I will from this year onwards attend LegCo meetings more frequently to answer Members’ questions. I am scheduled to attend the LegCo session next on 31 January for half an hour, and on that occasion I will not make any opening remarks and take Members’ questions right away. I am also ready to communicate and interact with Members from different political parties outside the LegCo setting, so as to listen to your views with a view to ensuring smooth implementation of government policies.
It is exactly three months today since I delivered my maiden Policy Address on October 11, 2017. I am very grateful to this Council for passing the Motion of Thanks for the Policy Address on November 10, 2017. While some may think that this Motion of Thanks proposed by Members is just a council tradition that carries little practical significance, I still see it as an encouragement to me and my team. We will spare no effort in implementing the more than 200 initiatives set out in the Policy Address.
In fact, over the past three months, relevant bureaux have been industriously taking forward their work, including consultation with various LegCo panels. On the development of innovation and technology, the high-level inter-departmental steering committee chaired by me has held its first meeting, and the Secretary for Innovation and Technology has published the first Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong. We have started drawing up a package of proposals to provide various support and ancillary facilities with a view to attracting local, Mainland and overseas universities as well as research and development (R&D) institutes to set up biotechnology R&D laboratories in Hong Kong. We have also invited the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong to make concrete proposals on how to pool together our competitive biotechnology research teams in Hong Kong. Regarding the financial sector, the Financial Leaders Forum chaired by the Financial Secretary has already held two meetings to set out the directions for a series of issues, which include amending the Listing Rules to respond to the needs of enterprises of the new economy. Also, the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency has launched the Green Finance Certification Scheme, and the Government will issue green bonds within this year. On taxation, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury tabled a bill at the LegCo yesterday for implementing the two-tier profits tax rate regime to reduce the tax burden on enterprises. As for creative industries, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development announced two days ago the Government’s plan to launch a design and fashion project in Sham Shui Po. On strategic development, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government entered into a Free Trade Agreement with the ten member states of ASEAN in November last year, and signed the Arrangement with the National Development and Reform Commission for Advancing Hong Kong’s Full Participation in and Contribution to the Belt and Road Initiative last December. The Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area will also be promulgated later this year.
On people’s livelihood, we expect to launch the substantially enhanced and relaxed Working Family Allowance in April this year, and introduce the Higher Old Age Living Allowance in the middle of the year. In response to suggestions from Members and the public, the non-means tested Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme to relieve public transport fare burden of commuters will be expanded to cover four more public transport services. Our aim is to launch the scheme within one year after obtaining funding approval from the LegCo Finance Committee. On improving labour rights, the Government obtained the support of the Labour Advisory Board in November last year on its proposal to increase the statutory paternity leave from three days to five days. We will soon submit the bill to the LegCo. On abolishing the “offsetting” arrangement under the Mandatory Provident Fund System, the Government’s stance has not changed. The Secretary for Labour and Welfare has redoubled efforts to come up with an improved proposal soon with a view to reaching consensus with both employers and employees.
On education, following the implementation of the measures under the $3.6 billion new education resources, further studies on the eight key areas of education have also been commissioned step by step. Other key tasks such as increasing land supply, strengthening primary healthcare, and setting up the Commission on Children which require study, preparation and extensive public engagement are also progressing well, with concrete plans for action to be made public as soon as possible.
As many of the tasks mentioned above involve legislative amendments or manpower and funding requirements, their success hinges on the support and endorsement of this Council. Currently, the Council is scrutinising 17 bills. In the coming few months, together with the two taxation bills tabled for first reading yesterday, the Government will introduce a total of about 16 bills into the Council, including one on the inevitably controversial co-location arrangement at the West Kowloon Terminus and the other concerning the implementation of the National Anthem Law in Hong Kong. In addition, in the remainder of the current legislative session, the Government will table not less than 30 proposals for the Finance Committee and the Establishment Subcommittee respectively. We will also submit more than 80 funding applications to the Public Works Subcommittee, with total expenditure amounting to more than $130 billion, and 44 000 jobs expected to be created by the public works projects involved.
For the well-being of our community, I sincerely appeal to Members to handle the tremendous amount of work mentioned above in an inclusive, pragmatic and vigilant manner. My colleagues and I will continue to listen to Members’ views seriously and work closely with you all.
Lastly, I would like to state that the Government’s work extends beyond its annual Policy Address. As a caring government that upholds justice, it is always our responsibility to "relieve our people's burdens". On the recent remuneration issue concerning the staff of government outsourced contracts, I have asked the Secretary for Labour and Welfare to chair an inter-departmental working group to examine ways of improving the existing mechanism of outsourcing in various government departments. As regards the tragic death of a child due to physical abuse, the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Education Bureau will take immediate action to look for ways to improve the existing mechanism to protect children from harm.
Mr President, Honourable Members, having been the Chief Executive for half a year has given me increased optimism and confidence about Hong Kong’s future, yet I also realise that challenges still abound ahead of us. My team and I will as always avoid no difficult task, make good use of our strengths and public resources to invest in Hong Kong’s future and relieve our people’s burdens.
Thank you, Mr President.
Ends/Thursday, January 11, 2018
Issued at HKT 12:02
Issued at HKT 12:02
Audio / Video
The Chief Executive attends the question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council