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LCQ10: Consumption Voucher Scheme
     Following is a question by the Hon Yiu Si-wing and a written reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Christopher Hui, in the Legislative Council today (October 27):
     The Government is implementing the Consumption Voucher Scheme (the Scheme), which involves a total expenditure of about $36 billion, to disburse by instalments electronic consumption vouchers with a total value of $5,000 to each eligible and validly registered person, so as to encourage and boost local consumption as well as promote the application of electronic payment. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the Government has set aside about $600 million for meeting the administrative expenses of the Scheme, of the amount of expenditure committed so far and a breakdown of such amount;
(2) of the current number of staff members of the Consumption Voucher Scheme Secretariat and, among such staff members, the respective numbers of those who are responsible for manning the telephone hotline and handling emails for answering enquiries; whether temporary positions have been created for the Scheme; if so, of the number, together with a breakdown by duty; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) as there are comments that the occurrence earlier of the situation of a large number of eligible members of the public not being disbursed electronic consumption vouchers due to incomplete or incorrect particulars registered by them reflects the presence of a certain number of members of the public (especially the elderly) at present who lack the knowledge and skills of applying the technology needed for the registration, hence making it necessary for the Government to arrange for personnel to provide face-to-face consultation service for such members of the public, how the Government sums up this experience to avoid the occurrence of similar problems in the future?
     During the registration period between July 4 and August 14 of the Consumption Voucher Scheme (the Scheme), a total of over 6.3 million eligible persons have registered successfully and have started to receive their consumption vouchers in batches and instalments since August 1. The process has been generally smooth and the overall response of the community has been very positive. As observed from the market situation, the Scheme has produced a stimulating effect on the local consumption market, and has helped revive the economy and encourage the wider use of electronic payment among merchants and members of the public. My reply to the different parts of the question raised by the Hon Yiu Si-wing is as follows:

(1) When preparing the budget for the Scheme, the Government has set aside about $600 million to meet administrative expenses for various purposes including increasing manpower in different departments to assist in the preparation and implementation of the Scheme, setting up related computer systems and other ancillary facilities, paying service fees to assisting agencies (such as stored value facilities operators and other contractors responsible for setting up an enquiry hotline, providing data entry service and conducting random checks) and conducting publicity and promotion activities. The Government does not have the actual figure for the administrative expenses involved for the time being as the Scheme is still under implementation, but expect that the actual figure should be lower than $600 million as initially estimated. The Government will continue to use public funds in a prudent manner and strive to reduce the administrative expenses as far as possible.
(2) The work of the Scheme Secretariat is performed by the incumbent staff of the Cash Payout Scheme Secretariat. There are altogether 99 secretariat staff (involving 39 time-limited civil service posts and 60 contract posts), who are responsible for processing registrations, enquiries, complaints, reviews and appeals as well as providing assistance for those with special needs under the two schemes. On the other hand, the hotline and email enquiry services are provided by a contractor which has commenced the services since the announcement of the details of the Scheme on June 18. The Government has been adjusting the number of the staff required based on the actual service demand in a timely manner, and at present about 100 staff are being deployed by the contractor to handle hotline and email enquiries.
(3) This is the first time that the Government implements the Scheme, which involves a large number of beneficiaries. The Government has encountered various difficulties and challenges during preparation and implementation. In the course of working out the implementation details and arrangements of the Scheme, the Government has strived to cater for the needs of different people and stakeholders, and endeavoured to strike a balance between security and simplicity, while ensuring that the implementation and effectiveness of the Scheme are in line with the policy objectives of boosting consumption and promoting the use of electronic payment. Although the Government had, in accordance with the announced implementation details, sent SMS notifications to the unsuccessful registrants and called to remind those who had not provided SMS-enabled telephone numbers using the phone numbers provided, the Government noticed that some registrants only realised on September 1 (i.e. the day of disbursement of the second batch of consumption vouchers) that their registrations were unsuccessful and hence went to the Scheme Secretariat to resubmit registrations. The sudden influx of visitors at the Secretariat resulted in longer waiting time. The Government will continue to monitor the implementation of the Scheme and learn from the experience gained, enhance publicity, explanation and relevant support.
Ends/Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Issued at HKT 14:30
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