就「本會感謝行政長官發表施政報告」議案發言


Madam President, the problems that beset Hong Kong now are far from unique. Right across the world, in countries as diverse as Argentina or Japan, governments are grappling with economic woes for which it seems that at present, there is no end in sight.

Of course, it is disheartening for our citizens to hear the stark facts spelled out once again in this year's policy speech. We had become so accustomed to ever-growing prosperity in the '80s and early '90s with increased fiscal reserves that of all the people in the world, we are perhaps the least adapted to cope with economic downturn.

That may be why there has been a generally negative response to the Chief Executive's speech. Critics seem to expect the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region could come up with answers to external problems like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat. Fiscal problems are not so simple. This is a changing world. It is in the process of becoming one vast global market with ever-fiercer competition and we must adapt to it or go under it. That means economic restructuring on a major scale, and that takes time. It means making our economy leaner and fitter, more keen-edged, more streamlined, and it also means greater sacrifices from many of us.

Naturally, that is not the kind of message that Hong Kong wants to hear. But it is undoubtedly the way forward. When we are facing a predicted deficit of over $70 billion this year, we must welcome every move that the Government makes to reduce spending and increase revenue — no matter how painful or distasteful that may be.

The Liberal Party has been urging action to reduce expenditure on the Civil Service for a long time, and we are relieved to learn of plans for a 10% reduction in staff numbers. We are also very encouraged by the news that civil servants are willing to accept a pay cut if necessary. At time of crisis, we must all do whatever we can to help, and we would hope that, in consultation with the Civil Service, the precise details will be announced in the Budget speech in March, when we will be able to learn many more details of the plans announced in the policy speech.

In view of the huge budget deficit projected last year, next year's Budget is the time to impose tax increases, but also a cutback in civil service pay to bring it back to the 1997 level, which would be perfectly fair, given that we have suffered a 13% deflation in the same period. There has been enough time to prepare for this, and we cannot afford to prevaricate any longer. If there are reasons for further delay, then they should be clearly explained. At the same time, it should be emphasized that whenever the cuts are decided, they will be backdated to 1 April 2003, the exact same date for tax increases.

I believe that this is fair and what the public wants, and what the majority of civil servants should accept as necessary and helpful to our economy in a time of need.

Madam President, the rest of us face the unpalatable prospect of small increases in taxes — another necessary evil in troubled times. Hong Kong is celebrated for its low and simple tax base, and we must strive to keep it that way, or lose one of the greatest selling points in attracting both local and foreign investments here. But however much we deplore increases in salaries or profits tax, or land and sea departure taxes, we can take comfort from the promise that the rises will be small, although the contribution that the extra revenue will make to reduce our deficit will be meaningful.

Just as crucial are moves to attract more investors, from abroad and inland. An inflow of new blood from the Mainland, allowing young professionals and entrepreneurs and their families to settle here and benefit from all the expertise and knowledge that a world city like ours can offer, will revitalize the dynamism and enthusiasm which has been lacking here lately. And if the new task force to improve Hong Kong's business environment is made up of people at the sharp end, who know from personal experience where the obstacles are, and what needs to be done to make things better, then it should come up with some positive and constructive ideas to attract investment and create new jobs.

So long as Hong Kong returns to the policy of "big market, small government" and continues to be celebrated for its free flow of information, it will always attract venture capital and be the best place in South East Asia to set up regional headquarters.

Madam President, these are testing times, but the difficulties are not insurmountable. We are still extremely strong in fundamentals. Our infrastructure, our people's know-how, our rule of law, our freedom of expression, efficient port facilities and our unrivalled strengths in finance, tourism and logistics equip us to ride out the present storm. Adding to that, we have the backing of China, which continues to forge ahead even in the present very challenging global economic crisis.

If the policy speech did not produce an immediate panacea for all economic ills, that is because recovery will take time and will be a gradual process rather than an overnight cure, especially when our society is determined to keep the currency pegged to the US dollar. If people look beyond the present woes to the long-term prospects, they will see a far brighter picture. We have the Disney Theme Park in full steam, there are 20 new hotels in the pipeline to cope with Hong Kong's growing popularity as a tourist destination — a fact that comes not from the Government, but no less an authority than the World Tourism Organization — and we have no lack of visionary ideas and big thinking in proposals like the Hong Kong-Macao-Zhuhai bridge, which is undergoing a feasibility study by the State Development Planning Commission.

Madam President, if that can be concluded quickly, it will chime in perfectly with the positive moves that are underway to link us ever closer to Guangdong and the many cities of the Pearl River Delta. The plans are there, the prospects are extremely positive. But we must be a bit more patient and, above all, optimistic. Behind the sombre words of the policy speech, that is the real message: The economy will recover, the jobs will come, provided that everyone in Hong Kong is prepared to do his or her bit for Hong Kong.

主席女士,我剛才以英文發言提及關於經濟發展的4部分,對於這方面的發展,除了我個人非常支持外,自由黨還有一些具體的跟進意見。

第一點,在經濟發展或經濟復甦的情況下,香港現在對於內地人才和優才採取的新政策,是絕對比過往好得多。現在我們沒有特定行業的配額限制,等於跟歐美人才來港的安排一樣,他們可以帶同家人來港,我覺得這點是非常好的。外國很多人才來港,可能是因為他們的公司或朋友對香港很熟悉,或認為來港很容易找到他們想做的工作。但是,近數年,國內很多人基於香港人對他們的態度,導致他們現在對前來香港工作沒有這般熱衷。我覺得香港政府應該積極到國內各大城市宣傳香港,因為國內的人才和專才有很多選擇,不一定要來香港工作。

有社會人士質疑,如果國內專才來港工作,會否把香港人的“飯碗”搶去?據我瞭解,現在上海的一些專才,如果是大學畢業和有10年工作經驗的專業人士,一般都可賺取二三萬人民幣的工資,在上海有如此工資水平的話,幾乎等於香港六七萬元的工資水平。所以,這些人才是要經過我們游說和吸引來港的,我們亦應表示歡迎他們來港,而不是查問他們為何要申請來港工作,像害怕他們會把香港人的“飯碗”搶掉,我覺得政府可以在這方面做一些宣傳工作。有人認為,香港這麼好,為何還要宣傳呢?最近,美國數所名校,包括Cornell University的校長都到香港來,游說香港學生到其學校升學。我問他們,既然這些學校的當地學生收生比例幾乎是100比1,為何還來香港作宣傳呢?他們的回應是:無論我們怎樣好,也還有需要在全世界繼續宣傳自己的學校的。我覺得香港亦必須採取此態度,不要以為我們有了輸入專才的計劃,便可以靜待國內的專才來申請。過了1年了,我們可發覺好像沒有太多國內專才申請來港。其實,現在希望來港的國內人士已不及1995至97年或更早年代的人數多,希望政府留意這點。

第二點是關於投資定居問題。政府目前就外地人士的投資定居安排,提出了新建議,但在內地人士方面,問題還未可以解決。這當然是可以瞭解的,在人民幣還未可以自由兌換的情況下,國家亦可能會擔心資金流失,那應該怎樣處理呢?我認為有一個短期的解決方法。據我瞭解,國內商人申請雙程證到港做生意而行為良好的話,意思是當他們到港後,在14天的限期內返回國內的話,當局有可能會再給予3年期限,如果是這樣,他們在香港做生意便很方便了。不過,我聽國內商人說,他們在香港投資是受到限制的,他們不可在香港開設公司,不可擔任香港公司的董事,我覺得香港政府應在短期內先研究這問題。過往給國內商人簽發雙程證,是方便香港商人在國內開設的分公司僱員前來香港的總公司工作,而現在我們討論的情況剛好相反。為何國內的公司不可在香港開設分公司呢?這會杜絕我們尋找投資的機會。況且,我亦瞭解內地民間企業的商人或公司,通常是有兩種貨幣戶口的:人民幣戶口和外匯戶口。其實,國內商人已經有若干外幣,如果允許他們在香港投資的話,不會出現人民幣兌換外幣的問題,所以國家在處理這問題上,無須太費心。

第三點是關於與珠江三角洲(“珠三角”)融合的問題。當然,今天我們的主要官員中,梁錦松司長、唐英年局長和馬時亨局長過往是屬於商界的,而葉澍i局長當然亦很有才能。我覺得國內,特別是珠三角的很多官員,由於在八九十年代一直與香港商界保持合作的關係,所以跟香港商界的溝通程度或兌現投資承諾的程度,會較香港官員為高,香港的官員可能比較實事求是,即使他們答應落實一些項目,但仍須事先向立法會申請撥款,亦要作出多種研究,以致項目的進展情況通常很緩慢,反而國內官員在同意進行某些項目後,可能很快便可以成事。我認為在珠三角計劃上,如果數位局長可以與商界一起與國內官員商討,他們是絕對歡迎的。如果香港商界,尤其是大公司的高層人士,能參與商討有關珠三角計劃的內容,包括建橋、築路、物流中心的處理等問題,或可加快計劃的進展。

此外,我想回應有關發行債券的問題。對於這項主張,自由黨是有所保留的。很多國家發行債券,是因為它們根本沒有儲備,或它們須進行一些具長遠效益的大型基建項目。事實上,我們現在有這麼多儲備,是由於我們購買外國的債券。反過來說,如果我們發行債券,我相信以香港的地位,其債券的回報率沒有可能比美國的高。如果有人想投資,他會對美國政府和美元有較大信心,還是會對香港政府和港幣有較大信心呢?我相信這埵h少會有些分別的。所以,政府沒有理由發行債券而收低息,但要向別人支付高息,在這過程中便已蒙受損失了。事實上,不論任何債券,遲早都要還款,即如使用信用卡簽帳般,早晚都是要還款的。那麼,為何自己有錢,不先用自己的錢呢?我覺得在香港發行債券是不恰當的。

主席女士,最後,我代表自由黨對楊森議員代民主黨所提的修正案表示不支持。我們存疑的是,楊森議員是否因為政府沒有就立法實施《基本法》第二十三條提交白紙條例草案,才表示遺憾呢?施政報告推出後,民主黨的議員在這數天都對政府很多事情表示不滿,認為整份施政報告的內容空泛、主要官員不願意與他們溝通等,只是他們還沒有用上“遺憾”的字眼而已。是否只要政府提交有關的白紙條例草案,民主黨便會全力支持這份施政報告呢?我覺得未必如是,所以自由黨稍後會對楊森議員的修正案表決反對。謝謝主席女士。


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