The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is taking a number of measures to improve people's livelihood in an effort to fulfill its commitment of serving the community and sharing the common goals.
Delivering the 2001/02 financial budget Wednesday, Financial Secretary Donald Tsang said the government must devote sufficient resources to address the needs of the community, particularly the grassroots and the disadvantaged, and to implement all the undertakings made by the chief executive in his policy address.
The government expenditure will amount to HK$252.7 billion (US$32.4 billion) in 2001/02. Including expenditure by the Housing Authority, the five Trading Funds and the Lotteries Fund, the total public expenditure in 2001/02 will be HK$290.7 billion (US$37.3 billion), about 21. 4 percent of GDP.
Expenditure items cover all initiatives announced by the chief executive in his policy addresses, including improving education, strengthening training, easing unemployment, helping the disadvantaged, and so on.
To make further improvements to the basic education programs, Denise Yue, secretary for the treasury, has announced a 5.5 percent increase of recurrent spending on education to HK$47.6 billion (US$6.1 billion).
The key improvements include upgrading 145 teaching posts in primary schools in the teaching of English, implementing curriculum reform and various education reform initiatives.
Recurrent spending on health will amount to HK$31.8 billion (US$4.1 billion), an increase of 3.2 percent in real terms over the latest estimated spending for 2000/01. Some of the additional funding will provide for 145 additional hospital beds, 40 additional day hospital places and family medicine practice.
In addition, the government will also increase recurrent spending on social welfare, employment, training and retraining.
Last year, Tung Chee Hwa, chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR, emphasized in his policy address the need for compassion and goodwill towards the disadvantaged and set out a number of initiatives to help those who are less fortune.
In response, Donald Tsang, financial secretary, proposed in the 2001/02 budget to allocate additional funding to assist the disabled, youth at risk and people with low education attainment.
The financial secretary has earmarked HK$219 million (US$28.1 million) in 2001/02 to implement a package of measures to address their basic needs, improve their employment prospects and help them realize their potential.
Concerning the youth at risk, Tsang said young people are the future pillars of the society and he earmarked HK$84 million (US$10.8 million) in the draft estimates, rising to about HK$180 million (US$23.1 million) a year by 2003/ 04, to launch a comprehensive program of support services for youth at risk.
"In recent years, we have provided a wide range of vocational training and retraining programs for those with low educational attainment," he said, and proposed to allocate an additional sum of HK$72 million (US$9.2 million) over the next two years for practical adult education of courses on language, IT and interpersonal skills.
"We believe these courses will improve the employment prospects of new arrivals, those who have been in Hong Kong for some time but are still seeking employment, and other Hong Kong residents who have never had the chance to receive formal education," he added.
To strengthen the role of the district councils, the Home Affairs Bureau is reviewing the functions of the district councils and will make recommendations later this year.
The financial secretary has earmarked an additional US$100 million (US$12.8 million) a year in the draft Estimates to allow an early start in implementing the recommendations of this review for the benefit of the community.