Paul Chan

Absence of Paul Chan and Gregory So diminishes population policy panel

Social service head says the development and commerce chiefs must be part of the committee

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 4:59am

The absence of two ministers from a panel that will advise on population issues has raised doubts about whether the administration will lend its full support to the policymaking process.

Twenty-two official and non-official members were appointed to the steering committee on population policy last month. However, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung were not on the list.

"Their absence has made the committee incomplete," said Christine Fang Meng-sang, a non-official committee member and chief executive of the Council of Social Service. "We will need to engage them in our discussion, which will touch on policies affecting the city's economy and land resources."

Fang said a reallocation of land resources was needed to cope with the ageing population, which was why Paul Chan was needed to be on the committee, because his bureau overseas the Lands Department.

Institute of Human Resources Management president Francis Mok Gar-lon, meanwhile, said the committee may consider labour imports to resolve a mismatch between the supply of and demand for talent, and hence strengthen the economy. This could be where Gregory So may need to be involved.

Fang questioned whether the exclusion of Chan and So was owing to red tape, because both bureaus are overseen by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah instead of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who will chair the committee. Fang called for the two ministers to become members.

The committee was formed in 2007 with then chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen in charge. However, only one progress report has been delivered since. There have been suggestions direction is lacking on health care reform, immigration policy, measures to tackle the needs of the elderly, education planning and efforts to raise the living standards of the poor.

On the allocation of sites for old people's homes, Fang said: "While our elderly people are waiting an average of three years to get into a nursing home, the government says it has reserved hundreds of hectares for small-house development [for which only indigenous males in the New Territories are eligible]."

A government spokesman said the two ministers could be invited to attend meetings as needed. Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung, a committee member, could advise it on the government's resources, he said.