Motion of promoting research and development
I personally strongly support the promotion of research and development (R&D). Today, a number of Members (including the movers of the original motion and amendments) have made many concrete and meaningful proposals, which have enriched the discussion.
In fact, as a result of the rapid changes with time, R&D has become increasingly important, particularly to the development of a country or region. This is because it will continuously bring in new mindsets and state of the art technology, attract a pool of talents and enhance our competitiveness over the neighbouring regions or countries.
Since it is important to conduct R&D before the demand emerges, we cannot wait until a certain demand actually exists. As such, the establishment of a systematic R&D basis is therefore very important.
Certainly, R&D work often takes a very long time and the results may not be applicable in the end. And yet, if any one of the researches turns out to be useful, the efforts made would be worthwhile. Hence, it is absolutely necessary for the Government to invest more in promoting R&D by, for instance, providing tax concessions and other subsidies and incentives, so as to encourage Hong Kong enterprises of different scales to engage in R&D.
In fact, the Government can make reference to the practices of the neighbouring regions. Singapore, for instance, has set the target of increasing the R&D expenditure to reach 3% of the Gross Domestic Product by 2010. And in order to encourage enterprises to invest in R&D work, it has introduced three tax incentive schemes last year, providing as much as SGD250 million a year for a period of five years.
One of the taxation measures is that all enterprises carrying out R&D work in Singapore can enjoy greater tax concessions, and the rate of tax deduction has increased from 100% to 150% of R&D spending. There are, of course, two other schemes, but I am not going to elaborate here.
Since Hong Kong has its unique economic, social and political environment, policies should be formulated according to its unique situation so as to keep abreast with the times. Yet, regardless of whether the development of industries is promoted through R&D or other policies, we should be bold and move forward using more progressive and creative approaches.
Mr Fred LI’s amendment mentions the creation of conditions conducive to the operation of the six economic areas where we enjoy clear advantages and this, I strongly agree.
I wish to particularly talk about the development of the medical tourism industry. Given that Hong Kong has outstanding and professional health care staff as well as medical skills of high standards, coupled with our advantages in tourism, sightseeing and shopping, it is absolutely possible for Hong Kong to develop into a capital of medical tourism in the region and even in the world. I think that Hong Kong’s first batch of target customers should be the middle andupper classes of the Mainland who have the strongest spending power.
However, given the scarcity of land and a dense population in Hong Kong, the greatest difficulty currently encountered in the development of medical tourism is the shortage of land. The Government has approved four sites for the construction of private hospitals many years ago, but they are in some very remote areas. Should we really wish to develop medical tourism, but if these hospitals are located so far away and no supporting facilities like shopping malls or hotels are available in the vicinity, we would achieve only half the result with twice the efforts.
I understand the Government might fear that if any land near to the urban area is allocated for the construction of private hospitals, it will again be criticized for collusion with the business sector. But so long as the ways and processes of land grant are transparent, fair, just and open, and in the best interest of Hong Kong, the Government should proceed with it boldly.
I hope that the Government can apply the same spirit to other industries enjoying clear advantages, for this would be beneficial to Hong Kong.
President, I so submit.