Speech on Motion of Thanks for the Chief Executive’s Policy Address 2013: Population Policy(2013.01.30)

Hong Kong has always been oblivious to the Population Policy issue, causing various problematic practices in the society. This year’s Policy Address finally took the initiative to raise the population capacity issue, reinforcing that immigration must be managed properly.

This year’s Policy Address has pointed out in the introduction that with limited land resources, Hong Kong must take the capacity problem into account in its population and other related policies. It has also emphasized that immigration must be managed properly to accord priority to developing the potentials of Hong Kong people; and provide more opportunities for young people, women and the elderly to join the workforce to enhance our productivity. The objective is to make the best use of our local talent pool and, when necessary, take in immigrants to make up any shortfall.

Although the Policy Address has not blatantly stated that a Population Policy will be drawn up, its meaning has made this rather obvious. As a matter of fact, the government has clearly indicated that the population issue will be listed as an essential consideration when drawing up policies. I believe the government has taken a correct first step. The next step is to formulate a clear Population Policy, so that when the government establishes education, housing and medical policies, there is an objective and concrete consideration guideline. A simple example would be when the government foresees an increase in the number of children born to non-local parents coming to Hong Kong in the next few years; the various government departments must take these elements into account when formulating policies or service proposals.

One of the problems caused by overlooking the Population Policy is having no restrictions on non-local women giving birth in Hong Kong. Not only does it cause chaos in delivery rooms in Hong Kong hospitals, it also creates huge burdens for various social services in the long run, for example education and housing. According to statistics, the number of children born to non-local parents has reached 220,000. I think that the government should initiate investigations on when these non-local children plan to settle in Hong Kong and form a database, so that various departments can have a clearer grasp of the population change when formulating policies. If nothing is done, these children born to non-local parents will only become a time bomb to the society. In fact, the government has never looked into this issue in the past.

As for immigration management, I have mentioned many times in the past – apart from the issue of children born to non-local parents, we must also face the problem of Mainlanders coming to Hong Kong with the one-way permit. From 1998 to 2011, the number of Mainlanders who came to Hong Kong with the one-way permit has exceeded 660,000, which is 10% of Hong Kong’s total population. Most of them are grassroots citizens. Their reason for coming to Hong Kong is to reunite with family, thus these applications cannot be rejected. However, Hong Kong can do a better job on planning and preparation. For example, the government can provide more targeted employment training or counseling services to prevent another incongruous urban planning like Tin Shui Wai, the “City of Sadness”.

Moreover, I would like to address the poverty issue, which has tormented Hong Kong for many years. The new administration has already established the Commission on Poverty and has listed the formulation of the “poverty line” as its first task. I support the establishment of this Commission and the formulation of the “poverty line” as a criterion to poverty alleviation, so that various poverty alleviation measures can be formulated according to this “poverty line”. I look forward to seeing the poverty alleviation tasks achieving their aims in the future.

One cause of poverty is the aging population in Hong Kong. As stated in the Policy Address, the number of people aged 65 or over will increase from 940,000 to 2.56 million after 30 years. The government must deal with the negative impact of the aging population as soon as possible. I have always believed that the MPF is only the retirement protection system of the employed; its flaw is that it does not provide enough protection for people with low income nor for people who will soon retire. Therefore, the government should formulate a retirement protection system which targets people with low income, so that it can make up for the shortcomings of the MPF and at the same time, relieve the pressure of the aging population.

As for other welfare issues, I believe we must optimize the Support for Self-reliance Scheme under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, so as to encourage healthy able-bodied recipients to work to rebuild their lives. Apart from considering an increase in the maximum amount of “Disregarded Earnings”, we can also think about reducing the amount of deductions against assistance payment if recipient finds a job with income. The recipient must deposit the excessive amount into a specific account, so when he/she is in need of financial assistance, the money can be withdrawn. This can strengthen the effectiveness of the Self-reliance Scheme.

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