Convenor of ExCo Non-official Members speaks on Budget

The following is issued on behalf of the Executive Council Secretariat:
     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Convenor of the Non-official Members of the Executive Council (ExCo), Mrs Regina Ip, at a media session on the 2023-24 Budget in the Legislative Council Complex this afternoon (February 22):
Reporter: Mrs Ip, some English questions. Firstly, why does the Executive Council support the continuation of the consumption voucher scheme? What is your opinion on the view that the scheme is only effective in boosting short-term consumption? Secondly, why has the Government also decided to raise the tobacco tax by only six cents (should be 60 cents)? Are the Executive Council or the Government confident in largely reducing smoking among the public? Lastly, the Government itself has reported several drops in its major revenue stream. Why has the Executive Council decided not to add more revenue streams, such as further increasing the betting duty or the tobacco tax? And also, the pandemic expenses have caused increase in government spending. Has the Executive Council decided to advise the Government to further relax pandemic measures to reduce its toll on the Government? Thank you.
Convenor of ExCo Non-official Members: You have asked at least six questions, so I think I will just respond to a few of them. On the consumption vouchers, we accept the Financial Secretary's analysis that we are at the beginning of an upturn of our economic cycle. The economy is still weak, so some measures of stimulation through the issue of consumption vouchers is acceptable, provided that it does not become a recurrent measure.
     As for tax increase, the Financial Secretary said that he needs more time to study new forms of taxation. The tobacco tax and the betting duty are existing forms of taxation. The increase of the tobacco duty is to serve health purposes, in line with the World Health Organization's request that we should reduce the smoking rate to 7.8 per cent over time, so this time the Financial Secretary introduces a 30 per cent increase. As for the increase in betting duty, that has been done before when the Government reported a budget deficit. I believe the Government has reached an understanding with the Hong Kong Jockey Club as to the amounts to be handed over to the Government in the next five years, and I believe the amounts are appropriate. Thank you.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Issued at HKT 17:16