Schemes to improve Hong Kong people's daily lives only the start
Leung Chun-ying makes assurances on national education and calls for multiparty discussions
Upholding the belief of working for the betterment of Hong Kong with one heart and one vision, I, together with colleagues in the political team and the civil service, have put forward a series of major policies to address livelihood issues in the first two months of this new administration. With the determination and concerted efforts of everyone, I am taking steps to carry out my election pledges and introduce changes to Hong Kong while preserving stability.
On July 16, I announced the following measures at the Legislative Council meeting:
- Introducing a monthly old-age living allowance of HK$2,200 to benefit over 400,000 senior citizens, as proposed in my election manifesto;
- Setting an annual quota of 5,000 for eligible white-form applicants to purchase Home Ownership Scheme flats with premium unpaid on the secondary market;
- Building youth hostels in collaboration with non-governmental organisations to provide living space for young people who are working;
- Doubling the value of health-care vouchers for the elderly from HK$500 to HK$1,000 a year to benefit about 700,000 senior citizens; and
- Creating a Social Enterprises Development Fund to support the start-up and growth of social enterprises so as to provide more opportunities for the underprivileged to unleash their potential and improve their lives.
In the six weeks after those five policy measures were announced, we further introduced the following key initiatives to improve people's livelihood:
- Implementing a package of 10 short- and medium-term initiatives to address the prolonged housing issues;
- Advancing the implementation of the second phase of the public transport fare concession scheme for the elderly and the disabled by more than one month, to enable target groups to ride on buses at the concessionary fare of HK$2 per trip;
- Launching 230 lift projects at walkways to make it easier for the public to get around;
- Enhancing the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme to allow applicants to opt for means testing on a household or individual basis;
- Creating a district open bazaar in Tin Shui Wai to encourage business ventures by providing low-rental stalls and to reduce residents' consumption burden, under the objective of addressing district issues at the district level, and to capitalise on local opportunities; and
- Offering subvention to hawkers operating in fixed-pitch hawker areas to improve their operating environment and offering a one-off ex gratia payment to hawkers who choose to surrender their hawker licences.
Of these new measures, some seek to fulfil election pledges, while others respond to the suggestions and views collected when my governing team and I reached out to various sectors in district visits. These are all appropriately proactive measures which seek changes while maintaining overall stability. To better address the pressing needs of the public, we will put forward policy initiatives once they are ready.
In response to the recent disputes over moral and national education, I would like to make clear the government's stance. I understand that some people are very much concerned about the possibility of the subject being turned into a tool for brainwashing.
We have reiterated time and again that this will never be the case. The government does not have any intention of introducing this subject for the purpose of brainwashing.
To ease worries, we have set up the Committee on the Implementation of Moral and National Education. The day before yesterday, we even expanded the terms of reference of the committee to allow discussions on all areas.
We also guarantee that schools can have discretion on the choice of teaching materials and the government will issue only those reference materials endorsed by the committee.
Furthermore, we will not coerce schools into launching the curriculum immediately. Instead, the roll-out period will cover a span of three years. Operators and schools may decide on the way and pace of implementation they consider most appropriate after accumulating experience.
It is our earnest wish that those who have views to share on this matter nominate representatives to join our committee so that multiparty discussions can be held.
Thanks to colleagues in the leadership team and the civil service, the new-term government has been able to take forward a series of new initiatives in just two months.
As I always say, our civil service is a team that stands accountable and displays excellence and professionalism. In addressing the pressing needs of the public, our civil service colleagues have to cope with an additional workload. For the administration as a whole, nothing is more encouraging than seeing our work bear fruit and win the recognition of our people.