Join hands with Legislative Council Improve livelihood and revive the economy
13 October 2019
The Legislative Council (LegCo) will resume business this Wednesday (16 October). We earnestly hope for its smooth running so that the huge backlog, in particular those bills and funding proposals that have a direct bearing on people’s well-being, can be cleared as soon as possible.
On the day of resumption of LegCo business, the Chief Executive (CE) will deliver this year’s Policy Address, which aims to address deep-rooted social problems and, through improvement of people’s livelihood, continue to propel Hong Kong forward.
The Government has earlier announced that the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 will be formally withdrawn. The Secretary for Security will, after the CE’s delivery of the Policy Address, announce the formal withdrawal of the bill. There will be no debate and no voting.
A review of the work progress of the LegCo last year (2018-19) shows that a total of 17 government bills were passed, fewer than the 27 bills passed in the previous year (2017-18). As a whole, 72 bills were submitted in the first three years (from 2016 to 2019) of the current-term LegCo, of which 56 bills were passed.
The 15 bills which are still being scrutinised by the LegCo concern quite a number of livelihood issues. We hope that they can be processed expeditiously so that we can implement for the people those benefiticial measures announced in the 2019-20 Budget. Among such measures are the proposed tax concessions which will benefit over two million taxpayers. This proposal alone amounts to an annual expenditure of $20 billion.
The Finance Committee (FC) approved $69 billion of works-related funding last year (2018-19), leaving about $74 billion’s worth of works-related funding still pending approval. A number of last year’s funding proposals have yet to be handled by the FC and its Public Works Subcommittee. Among them, the following are closely related to people’s livelihood:
- expansion/redevelopment of Kwai Chung Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital, North District Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital (totalling around $9.8 billion);
- construction of Trunk Road T2 and Cha Kwo Ling Tunnel (around $16 billion);
- construction of residential care homes for the elderly, community halls and libraries, and improvements of parks (totalling around $1.3 billion ); and
- improvement of waterworks and drainage facilities (around $34.2 billion).
Many in the construction industry are worried about the delays in funding approval as they mean fewer works projects and less work for frontline workers, and will directly affect their earnings. Hong Kong is facing enormous pressure at a time of both internal and external threats. Downside risks to the economy could be more acute than during the outbreak of SARS and the financial tsunami. Early approval of the funding by the LegCo will help safeguard the jobs of construction workers.
The Government announced a package of measures in mid-August to support enterprises, safeguard jobs and relieve people’s burden. Some of them are subject to the FC’s funding approval, such as:
- providing a one-off electricity charge subsidy of $2,000 to each residential electricity account. This will cost about $5.6 billion and benefit over 2.7 million eligible households;
- providing an extra allowance to social security recipients, equal to one month of the standard rate Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) payments, Old Age Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance or Disability Allowance. Similar arrangements will apply to recipients of the Working Family Allowance (WFA) and the individual-based Work Incentive Transport Subsidy (WITS). This will involve an expenditure of about $4 billion, benefitting more than 1.3 million social security recipients, 50 000 WFA households and 30 000 WITS recipients;
- providing a subsidy to kindergarten and primary and secondary day-school students in Hong Kong at $2,500 per head in the 2019/20 school year to alleviate parents’ financial burden by defraying education expenses (involving about $2.3 billion), which will benefit more than 900 000 students;
- paying one month’s rent for lower income tenants living in public rental units (involving about $1.4 billion); and
- injecting another $1 billion into the Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales to support enterprises in exploring business opportunities.
The importance of a harmonious and interactive executive-legislative relationship to effective governance cannot be overstated. On the basis of mutual respect, inclusion and rationality, as well as seeking common ground whilst respecting differences, the Government looks forward to joining hands with LegCo Members across the political spectrum to work towards the betterment of Hong Kong. We will do our best to garner Members’ support so that those funding items most needed by the people can be processed and endorsed as soon as possible to alleviate their imminent hardships.
The Government will continue to listen carefully to and consider the views of all sectors of the community with an open mind, with a view to enhancing its governance. We appeal to Members to ensure the orderly, effective and smooth operation of the LegCo, lest Hong Kong might come to a standstill.
Hong Kong cannot put up with the current instability for much longer. We need support from the general public as well as concerted efforts across all sectors of the community in order to come out of the impasse.