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Friday, July 4, 1997 CONTENTS ======== 1. PLA head calls on CE 2. Report on PRH figure incorrect 3. HK's fiscal reserves forecast to reach HK$377 billion by March 4. Ten Provisional District Board Chairmen elected 5. Update on landslip incidents 6. SCOLAR receives encouraging responses to the Language Fund 7. Water storage figure 1. PLA head calls on CE ******************** The Commander of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison, Major-General Liu Zhenwu, and his senior officers paid a courtesy call on the Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, at Government House today (Friday). Major-General Liu briefed Mr Tung on various aspects of the Garrison in Hong Kong, and had a long and cordial discussion. The PLA Garrison is based in Hong Kong as a symbol of sovereignty and Mr Tung said Hong Kong was very fortunate to have a group of such fine and highly disciplined military personnel stationed here. He said that Major-General Liu repeated the PLA's pledge to carry out its defence duties to the utmost of its abilities and to abide strictly by Hong Kong law and the Garrison Law. End 2. Report on PRH figure incorrect ****************************** In response to press enquiries, the Secretary for Housing, Mr Dominic S W Wong, today (Friday) said, "In the past five years, the number of public rental housing flats constructed by the Housing Authority (96,369) still exceeded the number of public rental flats demolished (75,400), despite the heavy demolition programme during this period to replace old flats with only basic facilities by modern quality flats. The figures reported in one newspaper today are inaccurate." "These public rental figures alone do not present the full picture of our public housing programme," Mr Wong added. "In the past five years, the Housing Authority also constructed a large number of subsidised home ownership flats (80,275), many of which have been purchased by tenants of the demolished flats. In addition, rental flats vacated by other public housing tenants purchasing their own flats, either in the public or private sectors, have been reallocated to applicants on the Public Housing waiting list. On average, some 14,000 families on the waiting list have been allocated rental flats each year. "As a result of various measures, the average waiting time for public rental housing has been reduced progressively from nine years to six-and-a-half years today. We are committed to reducing it further in the years ahead." The Housing Branch (now retitled Housing Bureau) was established in November 1994, and is responsible, among other things, for public housing policies. The Housing Authority is directly responsible for public housing construction and demolition. "The criticisms levelled at the Housing Branch/Bureau are misdirected," Mr Wong said. End 3. HK's fiscal reserves forecast to reach HK$377 billion by March ************************************************************** With the transfer of the Land Fund to the Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government on July 1 and taking into account the budgeted surplus for the current financial year, the SAR Government's fiscal reserves should stand at HK$377 billion ( US$ 48 billion) by March 31, 1998, the Secretary for the Treasury, Mr K C Kwong, said today (Friday). With reserves of that size, he said, Hong Kong had a government with no debt; accumulated fiscal reserves around US$ 48 billion; a simple tax system and corporate and personal taxes at a level amongst the lowest in the world. Speaking at a press briefing on the management of public finances, Mr Kwong said: "Insofar as the role of the government is concerned, we are great believers in adage that 'small is beautiful'. "A corollary of our 'small government' philosophy is that we 'live within our means'. We spend only what we can afford." Mr Kwong outlined the way that the Government put these philosophies into practice. "On expenditure, we keep strict control over Government spending. We do not allow it to grow, over time, faster than the trend growth rate of the economy. It is worth emphasising that we are focusing not on expenditure growth in one year, but in a number of years over time," he said. " On revenue, we maintain a low, simple and predictable taxation system. "The success of this two-pronged approach is evidenced by the fact that we have not only raised sufficient revenue to meet our spending needs but we have also built up a very healthy level of fiscal reserves. "Applying these principles has generated the resources for a modern infrastructure, for better homes, for better health care, for better schools and social welfare." Mr Kwong went on to say that these principles would continue to apply in the future as Hong Kong's fiscal policies were enshrined in the mini-constitution of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - the Basic Law. "There can be no ifs and buts about our future policies on the management of our finances. The proven policies which have worked so well in the past are now enshrined in the Basic Law," he said. "We will continue to keep firm control of government spending. We will continue to live within our means, and we will maintain our low, simple and predictable taxation system. Keeping us on course for continued economic growth. "And with the wealth which that growth generates, we will be able to further improve our public services and to invest in our infrastructure." End 4. Ten Provisional District Board Chairmen elected *********************************************** Ten more Provisional District Boards have each elected a chairman at their respective meetings today (Friday). They are: Mr Ng Sze-fuk, Chairman of Sai Kung Provisional District Board; Mr Chan Lau-fong, Chairman of Tsuen Wan Provisional District Board; Mr Tai Kuen, Chairman of Yuen Long Provisional District Board; Mr Tang Kwok-yung, Chairman of North Provisional District Board; Mr Chan Bing-woon, Chairman of Eastern Provisional District Board; Mr Chan Chit-kwai, Chairman of Central and Western Provisional District Board; Mr Tam Kwok-kiu, Chairman of Sham Shui Po Provisional District Board; Mr Hau Shui-pui, Chairman of Kwun Tong Provisional District Board; Mr Chan Kam-man, Chairman of Wong Tai Sin Provisional District Board; Mr Chow Chun-fai, Chairman of Yau Tsim Mong Provisional District Board. End 5. Update on landslip incidents **************************** The Geotechnical Engineering Office's (GEO) Emergency Control Centre of the Civil Engineering Department has received more than 140 reports of landslip since the Landslip Warning was issued at 6.25 am on July 2. Of these, 37 occurred alongside roads, 32 involved squatter huts, 33 were adjacent to buildings and two affected the Kowloon Canton Railway (KCR) track. Most landslips occurred in Sha Tin and Tsuen Wan where intense rainfall had been concentrated. About 800 millimetres of rainfall were recorded in the Chinese University, Sha Tin within 24 hours. The Head of GEO, Dr Andrew Malone, said the office was carrying out detailed investigations into six serious landslip incidents. "They include the landslip incidents at Castle Peak Road near Lido Beach, Tuen Mun Highway westbound near Ting Kau Bridge, the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery in Sha Tin and the KCR track near the Chinese University and Fo Tan," Dr Malone said. "GEO has deployed 50 staff to respond to the reported incidents. The geotechnical engineering staff give on the spot advice and guidance to the emergency team, regardless of the ownership of the collapsed slopes," Dr Malone said. "Geotechnical advice on necessary emergency action and repair works to be taken is given to remove the immediate danger posed to the public. The slope owners, private or Government departments, are responsible for carrying out these works. "Technical standards on such repair works are contained in the Geoguide 5 which has been widely circulated. Owners are advised to comply with the standards given in the Layman's Guide to Slope Maintenance to ensure the safety of their slopes," he noted. "Assistance had been sought from the Lands Department to identify the responsibility for the slopes which collapsed adjacent to the KCR track near the Chinese University and Fo Tan. Detailed studies on these two cases are undertaken by this office," Dr Malone added. End 6. SCOLAR receives encouraging responses to the Language Fund ********************************************************** In response to the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR)'s fifth call for applications, over 110 applications to the Language Fund were received by June 30, 1997. Speaking after a SCOLAR meeting today (Friday), the SCOLAR Chairman, Dr Daniel C W Tse said: "The encouraging response to our call for applications underlines the importance the community attaches to raising Hong Kong people's language proficiency. We shall process the applications in accordance with SCOLAR's established policy and make an announcement on successful applications as soon as possible." Under SCOLAR's pro-active approach, around 30 applications were submitted by experts in language education to conduct research projects under the 14 research titles identified by SCOLAR. "SCOLAR will examine each one of these research proposals closely to ensure that they satisfy our research specifications and vetting criteria, before making recommendations on the award of grants to the Trustee of the Language Fund", Dr Tse said. The criteria for assessing the research proposals include whether the proposals fall within the research titles put out by SCOLAR; potential contribution to formulation of policy recommendations in respect of language proficiency; potential benefits to learning and/or teaching of languages at various levels; quality of the proposals in terms of design and methodology; cost-effectiveness etc. Out of the applications received, around 70 involved the organisation of programmes/activities, the development of materials, and/or research concerning primary language education, which is SCOLAR's priority education sector in vetting this round of applications. "Guided by our focused approach, we are confident that language teaching at the basic level will be able to benefit from the many innovative and effective programmes or teaching materials developed under the Fund", Dr Tse added. At the meeting, members also discussed possible ways to evaluate completed Language Fund projects and to widely disseminate the findings and results of the projects. End 7. Water storage figure ******************** Storage in Hong Kong's reservoirs at 9 am today (Friday) stood at 95.0 per cent of capacity or 556.913 million cubic metres. This time last year the reservoirs contained 543.526 million cubic metres of water, representing 92.7 per cent of capacity. End

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