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57.   The Government has given firm undertakings to the community to improve people's livelihood by investing in education, helping disadvantaged groups, safeguarding public health, protecting people's lives and property, and investing in infrastructure. We estimate that total government expenditure for 2006?7 will be $245.6 billion.  Expenditure on Education, Social Welfare, Health and Security will account for over 60 per cent of this. In view of our improved fiscal position, I have maintained each Bureau's operating expenditure allocation generally no lower than for last year.

58.   There is a widespread view in our community that education is an investment. I share this view. We will spend $56.5 billion on Education in 2006?7. For every university graduate who has passed through our education system, the Government's total investment exceeds $1 million. We are injecting a further $1.1 billion in total into the Language Fund this year and in the coming year, with a view to raising students' linguistic proficiency.  Expenditure on Social Welfare will amount to $36.2 billion, of which $24.5 billion will be spent under the CSSA and Social Security Allowance Schemes.  We will exempt non-government welfare organisations from the additional expenditure-reduction measures that we originally planned to help restore fiscal balance. Health expenditure will exceed $32 billion. We will convert the Hospital Authority's one-off grant of $650 million last year to recurrent funding from now on; we will also provide additional recurrent funds rising by some $300 million per annum over the next three years so as to strengthen the Authority's financial position and allow it to cope better with service requirements.

59.   We attach great importance to the prevention and control of infectious diseases. We have invested large amounts in, inter alia, enhancing the training of healthcare workers and stepping up the provision of infectious disease isolation facilities. We have in place the Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic which has been developed in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines. In order to protect public health and in view of the recent threats of avian influenza, we have tightened surveillance and have enacted legislation banning backyard poultry keeping. We will continue our efforts to prevent the outbreak of avian influenza and have begun stockpiling antivirals. In the case of outbreaks, all necessary resources will be made available.

60.   Over the next five years, the Government will earmark $29 billion a year on average for infrastructure projects. We estimate that about 14 000 new construction jobs will be created in the coming year. We will speed up delivery of the outstanding projects of the former Municipal Councils and other minor works projects. We will, as soon as possible, commence the major projects under planning, such as the North Lantau Highway Connection to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Central Government Complex and LegCo Building at Tamar.  These will create more construction employment opportunities and ensure that public works expenditure remains stable over the next few years.  Meanwhile, the community is engaged in discussing the plans for other large-scale projects, including Kai Tak Development and the Central-Wan Chai Bypass.

61.   Madam President, increasing investment in infrastructure will not only promote economic development and bring more job opportunities, but also make our living environment more pleasant and enhance our competitiveness. We have a number of large infrastructure projects under planning, and we hope to start the works more quickly. Since our fiscal position has improved, we now have the opportunity and resources available to proceed. I hope that in a spirit of co-operation, and with the objective of building Hong Kong, we can reach an early consensus on these projects. In line with our principle of investing where required, I am in support of pushing ahead with infrastructure development and am prepared, if necessary, to increase the estimate of expenditure for this.

62.   By March 2007, we will have been able to reduce the civil service establishment from some 198 000 at the beginning of 2000 to about 160 000, as scheduled. Subject to operational requirements, we will retain existing temporary jobs in the public sector for a further year.

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2005 © | Important notices Last revision date : 22 February, 2006