Tang unveils team to oversee HK$10b fund
Fanny W. Y. Fung
A steering committee has been set up to oversee the operation of the HK$10 billion Community Care Fund announced in Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy address.
The fund, half to be endowed by the government and half to be raised from the business sector, will be opened for applications in the first half of next year, after the committee lays out policy on the types of projects to subsidise. It will meet for the first time this month.
Twenty non-official members were appointed yesterday to sit on the committee, which is chaired by Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. Five are from charity organisations, including Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, and Christine Fang Meng-sang, chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.
Although several property developers were the first to pledge donations, only one name - Chinese Estates non-executive director Lau Ming-wai - made it to the committee.
The fund has drawn much controversy. But one outspoken critic, Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun of the University of Hong Kong's department of social work and social administration - who urged the government to scrap the idea - was on the committee list.
Chow, who criticised the fund for lacking clear targets, said he had accepted the role because the government had promised to set clear goals for the fund and would not take conditional donations from businesses.
As he announced the appointments, Tang said: 'I thank the members for agreeing to board this ship under strong wind and waves.'
Noting that many doubts had been raised about the fund, he promised that projects would be funded only after careful consideration and that application procedures for funds would be kept simple.
'The fund is set up to complement the existing social security system ... The committee will carry out evidence-based review of our assistance cases and come up with recommendations on how to further improve our safety net,' the chief secretary said.
He also stressed that the committee would work independently and that donors from the business sector would have no say in the fund's operation. 'They gave their support because they share the mission of the fund in helping the underprivileged. There is no condition attached.'
To minimise administration costs, there would not be a 'big machinery' set up to vet applications, said Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Raymond Young Lap-moon, whose bureau will act as secretariat for the fund. The Labour and Welfare Bureau, the Education Bureau and the Food and Health Bureau will help to vet applications and implement the various projects.
Giving examples, Young said assistance for chronic patients to buy drugs could be given out through the Hospital Authority, and help for underprivileged students could take a form similar to the existing textbook allowance scheme.