I would like to express my views on the health care reform and green policies. The recent economic downturn is not going to change the fact that we have an ageing population and our health care expenditure will increase substantially in the future. The working population will go on decreasing and reduced government revenue is anticipated. The Government can brook no delay in solving the worsening health care expenditure problem which will become even harder to solve if it goes on procrastinating.
For this reason, I support the Government’s conducting the second-stage public consultation on health care reform and the financing options, and I hope there will be broad community consensus and feasible solutions would be formulated. Since it takes time to make legislation and it takes four to five years to establish the management system, further consultation is needed for purpose of reaching a broad community consensus. Establishing the relevant system and making legislation without delay would ensure prompt implementation.
I understand people’s worries about contributions. I believe all of us know of an economic cycle; there is now a low tide but I trust that the situation would become better a few years later. If the scheme is so designed that contributions have to be made in future, we can make decisions later in light of the economic situation then and we need not put the matter aside because of the prevailing economic downturn. This proposal will only be put into effect a few years later and we can then make financing arrangements at once if necessary. These are my views about the health care reform.
Concerning green policies, I strongly agree to the Government’s work on improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The issue has been extensively covered in the policy address, which is good progress. Power generation is the principal source of pollution in Hong Kong and the Government has made a lot of efforts. For instance, the requirement on emission reduction after 2010 and the 45% reduction in emission by some power plants are the major steps forward.
However, there are presently 30 000 pre-Euro diesel commercial vehicles and 17 000 Euro I diesel commercial vehicles on the road, causing serious pollution. The Government has earmarked $3.2 billion for the replacement of these vehicles but only less than $300 million has been used so far. The Government should launch more attractive schemes as quickly as possible to encourage the vehicle owners concerned to replace their vehicles so as to make the air in Hong Kong cleaner.
More attractive incentives should also be adopted to encourage buses, ferries and vessels entering the harbour to use ultra low sulphur diesel as well as reduce the emission of sulphur dioxide, suspended particulates and black smoke, in order that our environmental conditions can be improved early.
Why am I highly concerned about these issues? Because I had discussed them with multinational companies when I was contesting the insurance sector seat in the Legislative Council election. They said that Hong Kong had done very well in such areas as the rule of law, freedom and clean government and surpassed Singapore in many aspects, but we were lagging far behind Singapore as far as tackling air pollution was concerned. If the Government could do more in this respect, I believe it can certainly increase our competitiveness.
I used to work in multinational companies and this issue was certainly discussed whenever I had meetings with other multinational companies abroad. They had the environmental problems of Hong Kong in mind when they commented that we had poor competitiveness. The Government should consider environmental protection as a desirable investment which will create a favourable environment for our future generations and let them see a blue sky with white clouds more often. Thank you, President.