Hong Kong Budget 2013
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah delivered his sixth budget speech on February 27, 2013, in which he unveiled HK$33 billion worth of relief measures and forecasted a surplus of about HK$64.9 billion for the 2012-13 financial year. Economic growth was expected to come in 1.5 to 3.5 per cent in 2013.
Legislators want Tsang to start spending
Pan-democrats have launched a petition urging Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah to start spending Hong Kong's HK$1.38 trillion in reserves on tackling social problems.
It also calls on the government to get its sums right to avoid a tenth year of budget surpluses in a city where the elderly poor collect cardboard to survive and pictures of people living in cubicle flats shock the world.
"We have had enough," said education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen in response to the 2013-14 budget announced last week.
"The government needs new ways of thinking in handling finances. It has been bold in handing out goodies but does not dare shoulder responsibility," he said.
Cyd Ho Sau-lan of the Labour Party and the Civic Party's Alan Leong Kah-kit are among nine legislators who have signed the petition so far. Fung Wai-wah, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, has also put his name to the letter.
They plan to meet Tsang to discuss their demands.
Fung said the education sector was one of the biggest victims of budget mismanagement.
"The government is not doing what needs to be done. It is allocating money to areas that nobody thinks of as a priority," he said, referring to Tsang's HK$480 million plan to sponsor students studying overseas on condition they then take up a teaching role in Hong Kong for two years.
Fung argued that the best way to attract talented graduates to teaching is to improve conditions, such as offering young teachers long-term contracts.
Tsang used his online blog yesterday to defend his short-term relief measures, such as injecting HK$33 billion into the Community Care Fund, which helps people in need, and a one-off tax reduction.
He wrote that these would form the basis for long-term planning and argued that in tough times, more cash in people's hands would increase spending power and boost the economy. Acknowledging the negative reception from some quarters, he added: "I welcome these kind criticisms."
Around 20 members of the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre were at government headquarters yesterday calling for the surplus to be spent on, for example, more childcare and a universal pension scheme.