Transcript of remarks by CS on Budget (with video)

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at a media session at the Legislative Council Complex after the Financial Secretary presented the Budget today (February 28):
     This is a visionary, forward-looking, caring and well-balanced budget, combining a good mix of one-off relief measures and long-term initiatives. It addresses the challenges and needs facing society today and prepares for the long-term development of Hong Kong, invests for the future and strives to propel forward our economy, especially in the field of innovation and technology. It also seeks to promote upward social mobility. It underlines also the Government’s role as a "facilitator" and "promoter". The Budget, I'm sure, will bring hope, happiness and dynamism to Hong Kong and should be welcomed by the community at large.
     The Budget provides adequate resources for major policy initiatives announced by the Chief Executive in her Policy Address last October, and substantially boosts investment in various areas. Let me just highlight a few areas:
     First, the Budget invests heavily in Hong Kong's needs and development, including $300 billion for the second 10-year hospital development plan, $50 billion for innovation and technology, $20 billion for cultural facilities and $10 billion for district facilities and public market modernisation, as well as $15 billion to support the abolition of the Mandatory Provident Fund "offsetting" arrangement. The recurrent expenditures on education, social welfare and health care amount to over $230 billion, accounting for close to 60 per cent of our total recurrent expenditure.
     The Budget also invests significantly in protecting and nurturing our next generation, from enhancing child and youth development, education to upward social mobility and social inclusion. An additional $2 billion will be provided to achieve quality education, and $7.8 billion non-recurrent expenditure to further improve education quality. 
     Funding will also be provided for the Commission on Children, the Youth Development Commission and Commission for the Planning of Human Resources, which will all be chaired by me, and will come on stream in the next few months.
     Third, the Budget also introduces a package of measures to improve people's livelihood. It allocates over $1.2 billion recurrent expenditure and about $2.2 billion non-recurrent expenditure to implement the elderly services proposed in the Policy Address.
     As one-off relief measures, an extra allowance to social security recipients equal to two months of the standard rate of relevant assistance schemes will be provided. This arrangement will also apply similarly to recipients of Low-income Working Family Allowance and Work Incentive Transport Subsidy. We will further allocate a total of $920 million to provide a one-off grant of $2,000 to each student in need estimated at around 370,000, and pay the examination fees for candidates sitting for the 2019 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination.
     For the middle class, there will be one–off tax reduction measures to alleviate tax burdens on individuals. These include widening and increasing the number of tax bands, increasing basic and additional child allowances, increasing allowances for maintaining a dependent parent or grandparent and introducing a personal disability allowance. All these will result in reduction of tax revenue by over $6.4 billion a year. Furthermore, the Budget also proposes one-off tax relief measures for 2017/18 that will amount to a reduction of $43.3 billion tax revenue.
     I earnestly hope and indeed urge the Legislative Council to pass the Appropriation Bill and all funding proposals as soon as possible for the benefit of the whole community and propel Hong Kong forward.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Issued at HKT 14:42