Pan-dems present big spending ideas

Local | Phoenix Un 8 Feb 2018

The democracy camp wants to see a budget this year that includes injecting another HK$200 billion into a fund for building hospitals.

That comes after Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po implied last month there would be a huge surplus this fiscal year, with some predictions it could be as much as HK$180 billion.

Pan-democrats yesterday came together with a package of suggestions on how to use the surplus, and most involved long-term projects for livelihoods and services.

But with demand for beds in public hospitals going through the roof, pan-democrats want an additional HK$200 billion for building more hospitals.

Civic Party legislator and doctor Kwok Ka-ki quoted government policy set out two years ago that included putting HK$200 billion for building hospitals in the following 10 years, which would result in an additional 5,000 beds.

According to Kwok, "many patients have had to sleep in corridors, toilets and treatment rooms, and patients on their death beds have been kicked into what we call procedural rooms."

Kwok said there were 4.2 beds for every 1,000 citizens 20 years ago, but now it is down to 3.8 beds.

More funding, he added, would make good on a government promise from three decades ago to raise the figure to 5.5 beds.

Housing was another concern with Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai saying the administration should consider tax cuts for flat owners who join the Community Housing Movement.

It aims to persuade owners "with a conscience" to rent to people who have been on the waiting list for public rental housing for more than three years.

Chan "should provide tax favors for them, such as cuts of government rent, rates and property tax," Wu said.

Other suggestions included using the remaining HK$1.4 billion of the extra education recurrent fund for increasing the ratio of graduates with master's degrees.

There were also calls for a fund of HK$20 billion-HK$30 billion to prepare for the abolition of the mandatory provident fund offsetting mechanism. But pan-democrats were divided on cash handouts to all citizens.

Civic Party legislators Kwok and Jeremy Tam Man-ho said they were firmly against handouts, with Kwok saying funding should go to the medical sector and the establishment of a universal retirement protection scheme.

Tam agreed, saying money being used for economic stimulus was fine, "but I can't see the current economy needing such stimulation."

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