Policy Address

VIII. Continuously Improving People’s Livelihood

Increased Expenditure on Welfare and Healthcare

130. The current-term Government is committed to building a caring community and looking after the underprivileged, as can be seen in the allocation of resources. Recurrent government expenditures on social welfare and healthcare have increased from $65.3 billion and $62.6 billion in 2017-18 to $93.9 billion and $87.1 billion in 2020-21 respectively, with an average annual increase of 12.9% and 11.6%. Apart from the recurrent expenditure, we have also increased the non-recurrent funding for provision of additional facilities, which include an additional funding of $300 billion for the development of public healthcare facilities and healthcare teaching facilities, as well as $20 billion for the purchase of private premises for welfare purposes.

Implementing Measures to Further Improve People’s Livelihood

131. In January this year, I put forward a series of initiatives to further improve people’s livelihood. Although the COVID-19 epidemic has brought drastic changes to our economy and public finances, the Government will take forward the initiatives in a prudent manner. Among them, the study on tenancy control and the preparation for the cash allowance trial scheme, both related to the housing of low-income families, have already commenced. The proposal to increase the number of statutory holidays to bring it on par with that of general holidays has formally entered the discussion stage at the Labour Advisory Board. I earnestly hope that an implementation plan acceptable to both employees and employers can be agreed in order to conclude this controversial labour welfare issue which has lingered on for years, so that we may strive to introduce the enabling bill into the LegCo for scrutiny within the term of the current Government. As for the $2 transport fare concession scheme which has recently drawn much public attention, the Government has largely completed the internal assessment, and on the premise of being able to combat and prevent abuse effectively, we will include the required funding in the 2021-22 Budget with a view to progressive implementation within that financial year.

Additional Gross Floor Area for Welfare Purposes in Public Housing

132. Apart from purchasing private premises for welfare purposes, I consider that providing social welfare facilities in future public housing projects is a practical and feasible option. I will invite the HKHA and the HKHS to work with the DEVB to explore increasing the plot ratio of future public housing projects so that about 5% of the gross floor area can be set aside for the provision of social welfare facilities. It is fully acknowledged that in view of the tight housing supply, this proposal should not affect the original flat production of the projects.