The maiden policy address of the HKSAR's first Chief Executive
sparked off, as expected, lively debates on many domestic issues
including housing, education and investments in technology. On the
political front, we were also kept very busy by the planning and
adoption of the legislative framework required for the HKSAR Legislature
elections (to be held in May 1998) and, more recently, by the NPC
elections. With the Asia Pacific currency crisis leading to a significant
economic downturn, the overall economic situation is, as you can
well imagine, at the very centre of our current preoccupations.
Our financial operators and economists are still analysing and planning
the best ways to shore up Hong Kong's beleaguered economy and to
defend the Hong Kong's dollar against relentless currency speculators.
|II. Committees and Panels
||Public Accounts Committee (PAC):
||On 19 November 1997, the Director of Audit tabled his Report
No. 29. The two inches thick document actually contained fifteen
reports, most of which reaching, from our perspective, highly
contentious conclusions. The Committee will meet about four
times a week throughout the holiday season, in the hope of finalizing
on time i.e. 21 January or 11 February 1998, our own independent
||Financial Affairs Panel:
||The Panel held 5 meetings (Agenda attached as Appendix I).
On 31 October 1997, I sought clarifications from the Administration
on their controversial handling of the crisis affecting the
Hong Kong dollar and the Hong Kong Stock Market.
||In essence, I pressed the Administration to make a realistic
assessment of Hong Kong's current economic situation, to enhance
transparency of information within the market place and to enlist
the support of local businesses in defending the Hong Kong dollar.
I also urged a comprehensive review of the derivative markets
in order to ensure that local financial operators are not disadvantaged
because of deficient market rules e.g. stock lending in overseas
markets, raising the costs of speculation by imposing higher
margin deposits in extreme circumstances, add further blue chips
to the Hang Seng Index and by restricting the trading volume
of hedging tools vis a vis the trading of actual stock and securities.
||On 11 December 1997, during a Deposit Taking Companies Advisory
Committee meeting, I advised the Administration to understand
and react to the predicament of our financial institutions:
because of volatile interest rates, our institutions must face
uncertain fund management costs as well as difficult risk management
decisions because of the gradual erosion of their securities
value e.g. property and taxi. I urged the Administration to
speed up the development of long term debt markets and securitization
of property loans etc. in order to make more long term borrowings
available to financial institutions.
||The Government is now taking action on much of the above.
||Welfare Services Panel:
||The Panel held 4 meetings; the proposed fixed sum subvention
system was discussed and it soon became apparent that the Administration
would have to substantially revise the proposed system before
it would receive acceptance.
||The Panel held 4 meetings. Major debates on language issues
are to be expected. I shall continue to support a strong policy
aimed at enhancing the standard of English language as well
as the level of information technology in schools. I feel that
this is consistent with the role Hong Kong must continue to
play as an International Financial Centre.
||Finance Committee and House Committee:
||There were 10 meetings of the Finance Committee and 11 meetings
of the House Committee. I supported the funding necessary to
the creation of the permanent post of Deputy Commissioner of
III. Bill Committees Joined
||Legislative Council Bill:
||The Bills Committee met 12 times; on 27 September 1997 the
Legislative Council Bill was passed leaving the Accountancy
Functional Constituency intact. Being the Chairman of the Hong
Kong Council of Social Services I also took side with the Social
Welfare sector in opposing an amendment proposed by the DAB.
Overall, public reaction to my stance was highly favorable.
I also supported the bid of the Higher Education sector to secure
an independent functional constituency seat. The bid failed.
Some extracts of my arguments are included in my recent circular
sent to members.
||Resolution under section 29I(2) of the Stamp Duty Ordinance:
||I was elected Chairman of this Bills Committee. The Committee
met twice. I took into account the advice of the HKSA tax committee
and supported the preservation of the Stamp Duty tax regime.
This will generate a valuable audit trail facilitating the task
of making profits tax assessments on property speculation. I
also supported the Liberal Party's (LP) suggestion to only extend
for three months this temporary punitive anti-speculation tax
measure (instead of the proposed two years), pending further
analysis of a weakening property market. Although this proposal
eventually failed under heavy Government lobbying, it did force
the Administration to reconsider its original intention of turning,
in two years time, this temporary measure into a permanent one.
IV. Motion Debates
List attached as Appendix II - Highlights of speeches will be published
in my circular to members.
V. General Political Background
Following the intense media interest in the NPC elections, the
choice of the upcoming NPCC selection is likely to attract more
speculation. With campaign activities increasing however, the focus
will remain on the May 24 election of the first HKSAR Legislature.
The ambitious Government programmes on housing, education, social
welfare for the elderly, importation of labour, support of industry
also provide good debate opportunities.