I believe Hong Kong is ready for universal suffrage. The Standing Committee of National People's Congress (NPCSC) has stated that the first election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage is possible in 2017. Any constitutional reform of the Legislative Council before 2017 is admissible provided it is consistent with the current composition of members from elections in geographical constituencies and functional constituencies (FCs).
According to the Basic Law, the legislature and the Chief Executive of Hong Kong are eventually to be chosen by universal suffrage, and FCs should be removed in the end. This is also in line with the hope of the majority of the people of Hong Kong. Therefore, the 2012 constitutional reform must be planned as a check point of progressive democratic changes on our way to ultimate universal suffrage.
For the Chief Executive election, the nomination mechanism should allow more than one candidates to compete by setting the proper nomination thresholds. The CE election should progress toward a real universal suffrage in which any obstacles like pre-filtering and pre-election after nomination and before election are not allowed.
In the area of democratic progress for Hong Kong, I will:
* Advocate measures to significantly widen the electorate base of FCs in 2012, so that the election can be more representative; * Maintain the position that the FC system should be eventually abolished; * Support measures that will lower the existing barriers for nomination and widen electoral base in the selection mechanism for the Chief Executive election in 2012, to ensure that truly competitive elections can be realized.
I advocate a prudent public finance policy. Government may seem to have a rock and a hard place between growing demands from the public for more services, and more voices for reducing their burdens on the other hand. This may look like contradictory forces, but especially under the current financial position, Government is totally capable of satisfying both sides.
Yet, on the contrary, while fiscal reserves are mounting in the past few years due to rainfall fiscal surplus, on the other hand, public and Government expenditure, when compared with the economy as a whole, was shrinking. Public expenditure spent last year was only around 16% of our GDP, a quarter lower than the official benchmark. This means that Government has been saving more by spending less than optimal.
The purpose of taxation is for Government to spend on public services, but not over-saving. Government should make better use of our fiscal reserves and accumulated surplus of the Exchange Fund in more meaningful ways than just placing in its coffer, or making piecemeal write-offs and reductions in fees that only marginally benefit the middle class. I will:
* Monitor Government's public finance policy to ensure better use of public fund, and urge Government to practice the philosophy that the introduction of tax increase or contribution schemes would be the absolute last resort to avoid additional burden on the public, especially the middle class and the grassroots; * Urge Government to consider dedicating fund from fiscal reserves and accumulated surplus of the Exchange Fund to prepare for the escalating public medical expenditure, so as to avoid further increase of the tax burden of our society; * Urge Government to ensure public services will keep pace with the economic growth, and make proper investment into our future in education, and research and development;
Monopoly and oligopoly are more common in Hong Kong, a small open market, than in other countries due to our small economic size. We all agree that market competition is the key of capitalism to work well that resources are used efficiently, and stakeholders compete with each other in propelling economic development through maximizing their own profit.
However, in such a small open economy like Hong Kong, it is possible for conglomerates or syndicates to limit or distort market competition by anti-competitive trade practices, which eventually hurts consumers. For examples, big company can drive out competitors by predatory prices, and later charge a higher price when it monopolizes the market. In order to safeguard fair competition in Hong Kong, anti-competitive behaviors should be discouraged. I will:
* Support protecting fair competition and thus market mechanism by legislating to prohibit anti-competitive behaviors that severely limit or distort market competition, and monitor the effectiveness of these legislations.
The widening gap between rich and poor in Hong Kong is worrying. If the problem is not properly addressed by Government, Hong Kong's long term development potential will be imperiled. Not only government's welfare expenditure will increase but also we will have insufficient amount of high quality manpower for our knowledge economy.
We must invest in our future generation of young people including those who are in disadvantaged positions, and make them more upwardly mobile, like the generations before them. Misguided Government policies or proposals such as textbook subsidies continued to dominate, rather than tackling the problems at the root through investing in the future, by actually not spending significantly more, with scheme such as giving each underprivileged child a computer and broadband connections.
Also, the working poor is another major problems in Hong Kong. Salaries of low skill workers were driven down by excessive supply. However, low skill workers are unable to earn enough income to cover their basic needs. This also leads to another related problem - the cross generation poverty problem. These are not surprising phenomena in a transitional stage to a knowledge economy, but Government must maintain a more inclusive safety net for all, and provide more support for placement and re-training. I will:
* Support measures providing children from poor families equal opportunities to develop their potentials, such as improving their digital and information literary, and allowing them to explore their potentials in arts and sports; * Support measures alleviating the financial burden of working poor so that their incomes can cover their basic needs; Support measures to alleviate poverty among elderly population such as increasing the amount of old age allowance and CSSA Scheme.
Hong Kong is a matured metropolitan. Yet, there still remains imbalance in development between the developed regions like the Central business districts (CBDs) and the more distant areas in New Territories, in terms of economic development and community support.
The raising public concern for sustainable development must be acknowledged by both the Administration and the legislature. The community yearns for more open and public spaces for recreation, greening and improving air movements and sunlight penetration. What we need is more standardized model of construction but redevelopments that cater to the uniqueness of each district, with a primary objective to revitalize local heritages, improving the quality of life and the citizens, and preserving “Hong Kong memories.” Public engagement must become more genuine and active, for the future development of our major new infrastructure projects – the West Kowloon Culture District, the new cruise terminal at Kai Tak, Government headquarters at Tamar, as well as the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Joint Development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop. I will:
* Urge Government to review urban renewal policy with an aim to achieving a balance among the redevelopment, revitalization and preservation of the u rban areas; * Actively monitor the governance and performance of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the tender process of the new Cruise Terminal project to ensure the development plans are in line with the society's needs and be deployed in an op en and transparent process.
Education may be the single most important issue to many of our citizens, and Hong Kong's future hinges on how our next generation is educated in the knowledge-based and globalized economy. But in the past ten years, our so-called education reform process has caused confusions for students, parents and teachers alike, and our students caught in the middle of misguided policies. To achieve the goal of quality education, I will:
* Propose Government to expand small-class teaching scheme in primary schools and extend the scheme to secondary school, so that teachers can tailor their instructions to the different levels of students' abilities; * Review the performance of the policy on mother-tongue education, with the primary objectives of more direct choices for parents, and more autonomy for schools; * Support the development of the international school sector, including those under the English School Foundation (ESF) system, to ensure that their development can be accommodated by greenfield sites or existing school premises, for more competition and choices for parents; * Support the review of the system of associate degrees in Hong Kong, so that the quality of the education they receive can be better assured, and their studies at the associate level can be better connected to other tertiary institutions; * Monitor the progress of the implementation of the four-year university system in Hong Kong, to ensure that Government allocates sufficient resources in all areas for the universities during the transition period and beyond; * Support initiatives to make Hong Kong an education hub for China and internationally, including facilitating admission for non-local students and exchange programs benefiting local students to go overseas.
We are facing an inevitable escalation in public medical expenditure, making it highly possible that our existing healthcare financing model may not be sustainable as our population ages. More than forty percent of expenditure of the Hospital Authority is spent on people of 65 years old or above. There is also a growing problem of imbalance between the usage of public and private healthcare, especially for tertiary and long-term care and treatment.
These are all problems we need to tackle rather urgently, but at the same time, we have to bear in mind that the overall expenditure in Hong Kong on healthcare out of our GDP is still relatively low compared to other developed countries, which indicates that the solution to the problem should not lie in merely, for example, cutting costs in the public system, or in any way affecting the safety net we maintain for the more disadvantaged groups.
The previous round of Government consultation on healthcare financing models have not generated any public consensus, and future rounds of consultations will undoubtedly become even more controversial as hard decisions will have to be made. In this important area of public welfare, I will:
* Urge Government to explore the establishment of a dedicated medical fund for supplementing the public medical expenditure in the future, with part of the annual investment income of the Exchange Fund to be appropriated to the medical fund so as to generate investment income for future use, thereby significantly reducing the contribution required from the citizens; * Urge Government to review or reform the medical services independently from the healthcare financing problem and with an aim in enhancing the quality of medical services in Hong Kong.
Transport fares are one of our major living costs, to both middle-class and grass-root. It is Government's responsibility to promote competition and to ensure an effective, open and transparent revision mechanism so that transport-related fares are set at reasonable and affordable level.
Another concern on transport policy is the continuing growth of the private vehicles. This not only deteriorates the air quality because the emission of pollutants but also creates traffic congestions which both of them will increase our social costs and impair the quality of life. Registration tax or fuel levy may help but this is not an effective way. Instead, adoption of ICT can help. With this in mind, I will:
* Monitor the transport-related fares revision mechanism to ensure it is open and transparent; * Urge Government to conduct a comprehensive review on the Intelligent Transportation Strategy which was issued in 2001 for encouraging the p ublic to use mass transportation, as well as an effective and environmental-friendly use of private cars.
All over the world, attitudes toward environmental protection are changing. People care more and more about climate changes, air quality, toxic wastes and so on, and it is not different in Hong Kong. Here in particular, the problem of poor air quality due to emissions from power plants in Hong Kong and air pollutants across the border from China, and the concern over solid waste disposals due to overflowing landfills are extremely urgent. We have no more time to wait. So, I will:
* Urge the government to seek more practical and effective ways in encouraging stakeholders in the PRD region to reduce emission of air pollutants, in order to improve air quality in Hong Kong; * Support the government to seek ways in reducing the rate of increase of solid wastes such as further introducing product responsibility system or imposing charges on disposing solid wastes; * Propose to expedite consultations on legislations on producer responsibilities systems, and expanding their scopes of products being covered.
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