Motion of Thanks (2014.02.14)

President, this Policy Address has highlighted the holistic development of young people by making numerous proposals in areas of employment, education and whole-person development. One area that I am very concerned about is youth employment. As economic development has reached a mature stage, job growth is slowing down. Young people who lack work experience have limited career choices that can match their interests. This Policy Address has proposed to actively strengthen employment support for the youth by launching a pilot employment support scheme to attract and retain young talent for relevant industries by integrating structured apprenticeship training programmes with clear career progression pathways. The scheme aims to help young people get a foot on the career ladder and feel more confident about their future.

I am also very concerned about the lack of vocational education tailored for the youth in society, making some of them clueless about their direction of career development. This Policy Address has re-established the positioning of vocational education to guide the younger generation in building up correct concepts of choosing their career. The measure can help young people learn the meaning of the Chinese proverb that “every trade has its masters”. It can also help those who are not interested in studying learn a skill expeditiously so that they can contribute to society. I really hope these measures can help the younger generation nowadays choose a career that is most suitable for them.

Regarding education for the youth, this Policy Address has finally given positive response to address the lack of opportunities for higher education faced by associate degree holders. From the 2015-2016 academic year, the number of places for publicly-funded undergraduate programmes will progressively increase by a total of 1 000. Therefore, 5 000 meritorious associate degree graduates will be able to articulate to subsidized degree programmes each year by the 2018-2019 academic year. This is indeed good news for associate degree students.

However, I hope the Government can pay more attention to the relationship between economic diversification and youth development. I have repeatedly suggested measures to promote the development of headquarters economy. The idea is to introduce preferential measures to attract foreign enterprises to base their headquarters or set up offices in Hong Kong. As a matter of fact, if multinational corporations set up business in Hong Kong, it will bring immense benefits to our young people. Apart from providing job opportunities to the youth, the companies can help young people gain a better understanding of how multinational corporations operate, thereby broadening their horizons and career prospects.

In addition to headquarters economy, online shopping has become one key development of economic diversification in recent years. Internet entrepreneurship does not require much technical skill or capital investment, yet the potential for development is huge. It is thus very suitable for the youth. The Government, therefore, should promptly introduce support measures to help young people set up online businesses, so that they can develop their career under a diversified economy.

Apart from youth problems, issues relating to Hong Kong’s population development are my other concerns. The 2013 Policy Address stated that the Government had to take into account capacity issues when formulating population and other related policies. But the issue is not mentioned in the Policy Address this year. In the face of an ageing population and increasing number of new immigrants, the Government should expeditiously formulate a long-term population plan and conduct thorough studies on capacity issues in order to set directions for the population policy in the long run.

I did not talk about environmental protection issues last time, so I would like to make some points in this respect. The Policy Address has announced that the Government has finally reached a consensus with the transportation industry to phase out some 82 000 old Euro III or earlier old diesel commercial vehicles. The Government will start the scheme for replacing old diesel vehicles in March this year to reduce roadside air pollution as soon as possible. For talents working in multinational corporations who have refused to work in Hong Kong because of its serious air pollution, I hope that the measure can rebuild their confidence in the city’s environment.

Though Hong Kong has made a big step forward in combating air pollution, it still has not made a move regarding solid waste management. Last year, the Government faced strong opposition against its plan to expand the Tseung Kwan O Landfill. The Policy Address this year has only mentioned some ancillary measures to alleviate the pressure on landfills, such as reviewing the location of recycling bins and launching a mobile phone application to provide information about waste reduction, and so on, but it has made no mention of the concrete plan for expanding landfills.

I support landfill extension. If the extension project is indefinitely delayed, the waste problem will only worsen. Of course, the Government should first conduct thorough consultation with local communities and provide reasonable compensation packages for affected residents. The Government should also execute proper supporting measures to minimize the negative impacts brought about by landfills. If nothing is done, the Government will face profound challenges to expand landfills. This will subsequently cause delays in reaching the waste reduction goal in the long run.

At the same time, the Government should also seek new directions in developing waste incineration. Last year, I visited waste management facilities in South Korea with other Members, and was very impressed by its highly advanced incineration plants. Their incinerators can capture emissions and convert them into energy, thus hugely minimizing their impacts on the environment. I suggest the Government to examine the adoption of similar or more advanced incineration technologies and strengthen promotion on the advantages of high-tech incinerators, so as to build up the confidence of the public in incineration technologies.

With regard to supporting measures for the recycling industry, I am very pleased to see that the Government has finally begun to actively develop the recycling industry. The measures announced in the Policy Address include setting up the Steering Committee to Promote the Sustainable Development of the Recycling Industry and earmarking $1 billion to launch a Recycling Fund. Basically I support these measures. I hope the Government will soon formulate details on the use of the fund so that the industry can receive actual support and solve their long-term problems, such as high operating cost, expensive rent, and a huge demand for manpower, and so on. These measures will not only benefit the recycling industry, but will also strengthen the entire environmental protection industry. I, therefore, hope the Government will speed up implementation of these initiatives.

Finally, the Policy Address has mentioned the introduction of quantity-based charging for municipal solid waste. I hope the Council for Sustainable Development can put forward a fair charging scale on waste that will not place a financial burden on grass-roots families. The charging scheme should be enforced across all sectors at different stages. This will enable a gradual implementation of the new charging mechanism to reach the target of waste reduction at source.

I so submit.

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