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Transcript of remarks at press conference on livelihood initiatives in 2016 Policy Address

    The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam; the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung; the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung; the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, held a press conference on initiatives to improve livelihood in 2016 Policy Address today (January 14). Following is the transcript of remarks at the press conference:

Reporter: So I have questions for both Mrs Lam and Mr Matthew Cheung. First of all, Mrs Lam, you said you disagreed with the general reaction to the Policy Address yesterday saying that the Government is not committed enough to improving livelihood. So why do you think people are inherently unhappy with the measures that the Government is ready to offer? And also, I have another question for you which is regarding the interdepartmental committee that you're going to chair regarding the Paris climate conference last year. So you're going to chair this committee to try to formulate some mitigation measures, so can you give us a little idea, like what kind of major directions you will take. And also for Mr Cheung: So you're going to roll out a lot of new measures but at the same time people are also inherently concerned about, like for example recently there is a new case of abuse emerging from one of the care homes in Sha Tin, and they're worried about problems like this are not going to be solved, and so how are you going to address it? And also you said the Labour Department will also roll out a new code of practice by the first quarter of this year to try to improve protection for employees' rights, but however why don't you try to bump it up into like a legislation and instead just a code of practice? Do you think it will be a strong enough deterrent? Thank you.

Chief Secretary for Administration: On your first question, I said at the outset that this term of the Hong Kong SAR Government is fully committed to improving people's livelihood, particularly in helping the elderly and the disadvantaged. So I have taken a bit of time to recap all the various measures, big and small, that this Government has implemented since we assumed office on the 1st of July, 2012. I'd like to think that people's reactions yesterday and today on the livelihood measures were somehow affected by a lack of full understanding of these measures, because we have not had a chance to come out to explain to you through this press conference all the extensive measures that we are doing for the people of Hong Kong. And I would just advise, if you look at the policy initiatives of the Government, sometimes it may not be the best way to look at one Policy Address in isolation. A lot of big-ticket items in improving people's livelihood have been introduced in previous Policy Addresses, including two entirely new social security schemes. One is the Old Age Living Allowance, the other is the Low-income Working Family Allowance, and both together will take up over $9 billion extra recurrent expenditure every year. In fact, if you look back at history, I don't think any government has done so extensively within such a short period in terms of social security improvements. So I hope that when people have a bit more time to understand about these measures then they will come round to appreciate that the SAR Government is doing the right things for the people of Hong Kong.

     As far as the climate change steering committee that I am going to chair, what we will do is really to implement the climate change blueprint that the Environment Bureau has published in 2015. Basically, whether it is in climate change or in the previous subject of recycling, the achievement of the objectives in the plan requires cross-sector and cross-bureau co-operation, and that is where the Chief Secretary for Administration comes in. My job is to co-ordinate the various parties within administration to work in concert towards one major objective, and this major objective is of course a very important one, that we have pledged to reduce energy intensity by 40 per cent by the year 2025. As far as the details of the measures, you can look at the blueprint published by the Environment Bureau last year. Thank you very much.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: On your two questions, first of all, we are very concerned about the alleged abuse case in the Sha Tin home for the mentally-ill people there. The Social Welfare Department followed up on the case promptly and looked into the case closely to ensure that those incidents would not repeat in the future. The SWD will be merging its licneces offices responsible for elderly homes and also for the PWD (people with disabilities) homes. The two offices will be merged together and will also beef up the manpower and strengthen the inspection frequency. At the same time, it will also improve the quality through stepping up training for staff concerned. We are talking about the overall approach in terms of enhancing the quality of all these homes in Hong Kong. In fact, we have got short, medium and long term measures already in the pipeline.

     The second question on the code of practice to regulate employment agencies, in particular, for foreign domestic helpers. We have got at the moment 340,000 helpers in HK from the Philippines, Indonesia and other places. The code of practice is designed to strengthen the regulation for these employment agencies to ensure that they do not engage in malpractices. We encourage best practice and good practices. For example, we would advise against them to involve in any money lending. They must not keep the passports of the helpers, among others. We have got "dos" and "don'ts" for the agencies to follow. At the same time, we have strengthened liaisons with the consulates in HK. Actually I have seen the ministers from both Indonesia and the Philippines when they visited HK last summer. We have very good reported steps already. And also we are in fact enhancing education and training and also promotion of rights and benefits and awareness on the part of the helpers themselves. For examples, for all newly arrived helpers, they have to report to their consulates when they arrived in Hong Kong. During the welcome programme, Labour Department staff will be there to brief them on their rights and benefits to make sure they know who they can turn to, in particular when they face difficulties. We are providing all sorts of help and assistance for the helpers. If you ask if the Code is advisory, (the answer is) "Yes". But after a certain period of implementation, if the code does not have effect in improving the whole situation, I do not rule out the possibility of enacting, in other words, making it statutory, changing the laws and also consider enhancing the penalty under the current ordinance in order to achieve a more effective way to help the helpers in HK.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Thursday, January 14, 2016
Issued at HKT 21:38


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