President, an ageing population is no longer a new issue. It is an issue which has been discussed by Members of the Legislative Council on various occasions. But it is a pity that protection for the elderly is still inadequate and unable to fully meet their needs despite so many years of government spending.
The government official said that government expenditure on the provision of social security, elderly services and health care services for the elderly accounts for 16% of the Government’s recurrent expenditure. In other words, $16 in every $100 of overnment spending was spent on the elderly. But the fact is that the people of Hong Kong generally think that protection for the elderly is still seriously inadequate.
This is precisely because the issue has been handled by the Government in a way as if hanging decorations randomly to a Christmas tree. Hence, misallocation of resources and inappropriate use of money are resulted due to a lack of a comprehensive, forward-looking and focused policy. In other words, the most needed services are not provided or adequately provided by the Government while services for which there is not much demand are nevertheless offered.
The Government estimates that the number of elderly people aged 65 and above in 2036, that is, about 27 years later, will constitute 27% of the total population and total over 2 million. In other words, three Hong Kong residents will be required to support one elderly person by then. If we do not face the issue squarely and find a solution at the earliest opportunity, the problem will grow to such extent that it would eventually be hard to solve it.
Today, a number of Honourable colleagues have proposed some recommendations. I can see that many of these recommendations can help the elderly. Of course, we have to discuss their urgency and priorities, the resources required, the sources of the resources, and so on. But most importantly, in my opinion, if the Government does not conduct a thorough research on this issue or formulate a comprehensive strategy, what we can do is to adopt some stopgap measures or a passive attitude toward the issue, taking just one step at a time without forward-looking planning. In this process, the Government will waste the investment value and time value of the public money. Eventually, the Government will have to resort to reducing expenditure in other aspects or raising revenue through taxation.
President, I support the direction highlighted by Mr CHEUNG Kwok-che, who has requested the Government to consolidate the various existing elderly services and formulate a comprehensive and forward-looking elderly policy. In my opinion, the Government must immediately formulate a reasonable timetable for finalizing the elderly policy.
The purpose is to set out the standard of living under protection for all the elderly and estimate the expenditure required for public information. Public consultation and discussion can be held, so that the people will understand that genuine retirement protection for all the elderly in Hong Kong cannot be achieved by empty talk. Rather, we have to map out plans and dedicate our efforts towards this goal, and we also have to make commitments early.
The goal cannot be achieved solely by the Government without people’s co-operation, their willingness to make contribution and full preparation. We have to put all the facts on the table so that Hong Kong people can examine the data closely and discuss the issue in a rational manner. This also can preclude the people from relying on or accusing the Government due to their own wishful thinking because such reliance or accusation out of wishful thinking will only lead to disappointment rather than any positive solution to the matter.
President, I so submit.