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Community wisdom

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The 2019-20 Budget will be announced in less than three weeks. In the past three months, we held around 40 consultation sessions to gauge views from the community, various sectors and stakeholders. We also made use of social media platform earlier to listen to public opinions direct through live broadcasting.

In fact, I have been taking every opportunity to listen to the views from the public during daily interactions. When riding on the MTR, eating in cafe, taking a walk or visiting markets, quite some citizens shared with me their views and expectations towards the coming Budget. Housing, elderly and rehabilitation services, healthcare and economic development were always issues of concern which they considered should be tackled with priority. During the exchanges, I also tried to explain the policy considerations so that citizens can understand the rationale behind.

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Sometimes suggestions from the community involve relatively major policy adjustments which cannot be handled by the Budget alone. In general, major policies and their adjustments are brought up by the blueprint of the Policy Address, followed by implementation details by responsible policy bureaux and then resource support in the Budget. Taking into account the social and economic development during the period between the Policy Address and the Budget, suitable measures may also be proposed under the Budget to alleviate the pressure of livelihood.

And without compromising policy principles, we would consider proposing minor policy adjustments and allocate additional resources to address issues of concern. Together with policy bureaux, we are now making an effort in reviewing comments from the public and different sectors, and would propose appropriate measures in the upcoming Budget.

The Government's fiscal surplus for the next financial year would unlikely reach a hundred-billion-dollar level and relatively fewer resources would be available. Yet temporary economic fluctuations should not affect our long-term development goal and investments in the future, which should be carried out with policy substantiality and implementation persistence. At the same time, while external uncertainties have weakened domestic consumption and exports as well as undermined businesses' confidence, the Government should play a more proactive role in utilising the surplus in time of adversity. Therefore, we need not drastically cut spending in the light of the short-term economic and financial change, but the key is that we have to act and spend prudently, so as to maintain a fiscal balance broadly in the medium to long term.

In brief, for issues which can be tackled by additional resources, we have been seeking support from stakeholders with a view to proposing solutions in the coming Budget. However, we have to admit that some problems cannot be solved merely by putting in more money, e.g. for pain points like housing, healthcare and elderly services. We need to identify the root causes of these problems and tackle them step by step. This requires persistence, patience and unwavering determination, as well as the support of the community. With we all moving forward together for a common goal, we will be able to resolve the problems with least delay.

February 10, 2019

   

 
 
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