Long-term focus is on next budget agenda, says John Tsang

Financial secretary also dispels some misconceptions about government coffers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 4:23am


Related topics

Days after Macau announced a record 8,000-pataca giveaway to its residents, the Hong Kong financial secretary said his next budet in February would focus on long-term planning rather than one-off "sweeteners".

John Tsang Chun-wah also wrote on his blog yesterday that there was a misconception that the government relied on high land prices to maintain a stable income. And he said the government had never been "petty" in setting out social policies that may incur recurrent expenses as long as there was consensus.

"We have never been petty about allocating recurrent resources to support policies and services that have gone through thorough deliberation to build consensus," he said, citing kindergarten subsidies and transport subsidies.

"When there is a policy decision, the government will support it with its financial resources," he said, adding that since the handover, new services had incurred an 80 per cent increase on recurrent expenditure accumulatively.

Tsang said that while the community had a tendency to focus on one-off relief measures in the budget, he would like to focus more on how to set out policy with a vision.

Tsang stirred much debate last year when he announced a HK$6,000 handout to all adult permanent residents. A number of lawmakers said such sweeteners did little to help at a grass roots level.

Tsang said yesterday: "I agree we should not only rely on one-off sweeteners."

Amid high property prices, Tsang said he had heard views that the government coffers relied too heavily on the property sector, but land sales or land premium proceeds only amounted to 15 per cent of total income, citing an earlier forecast for this fiscal year.

"Some people believe selling land is a major source of income [for the government] and suggested we rely on it less so. But in fact, land proceeds' contribution to government coffers is not high," he said.

He also said those who had made comments that he had often underestimated government income and been sitting on reserves ignored fluctuations of taxation and other income.