The Policy Address 2000

C. Helping the Poor and the Needy

82. There is no doubt the Asian financial crisis had a major impact on our community, particularly the lower income families some of whom have suffered a substantial drop in average income levels. This situation has aroused considerable public concern. I know how they must feel. That is why I want to focus on the plight of low income families in the coming year.

83. Unfortunately, the wealth gap is an inevitable phenomenon in the course of economic development. It is not unique to Hong Kong. The social security system we have put in place serves to ensure that the poor can meet their basic needs. It is, however, difficult to narrow the wealth gap in the short term. One major reason is the rapid rise of the knowledge-based economy, which has led to a great demand for well-trained talent with specialised skills required for technological development and application. However, most low income workers do not have the necessary skills or the educational background to adapt to the New Economy, let alone grasp the new opportunities to fundamentally improve their own financial position. Besides, our population is ageing. Without considerable savings or family support, retired persons can find it difficult to support themselves. Moreover, the number of single-parent families continues to increase. Many single parents cannot go out to work because they have to look after their children at home. Therefore, they are badly in need of assistance. Furthermore, quite a number of new arrivals are experiencing financial difficulties because of adaptation problems.

84. Over the past few months, many concern groups have put forward their ideas on helping the poor. I share the views expressed by many members of the community that the problem should be tackled by holistic and integrated social and economic policies. The best solution is to address the problem at source by providing more opportunities for education and ensuring sustained healthy economic development. This approach will create more jobs and facilitate social advancement.

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