Rebuilding public confidence
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
Deputy President, Hong Kong has experienced the “black-clad violence” and the raging novel coronavirus epidemic over the past two years with its economy plunged straight to rock bottom. Since the formal implementation of the National Security Law, society is largely stable; with the epidemic becoming slightly mitigated, the economy has also gradually showed a V-shaped rebound. People are looking forward to good order after serious chaos, and there is also a need to rebuild public confidence.
Noting the emerging variants of the novel coronavirus, it is anticipated that the epidemic will co-exist with humankind for a long while. In order to respond to this new normal, I thank Mr Jeffrey LAM for proposing this motion today to allow us to think about Hong Kong’s future way out and to make up for the time lost when economic development remained stagnant.
To begin with, I agree to the proposal of “setting up an Economic Stimulation Committee to formulate action plans for post-pandemic economic recovery” in the motion. Member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank cum the Governor of the Italian central bank Ignazio VISCO pointed out in April this year that the biggest threat to global economic recovery actually lies in the varied progress of novel coronavirus vaccination amongst different countries. Looking around the world, it can be said that all kinds of tactics have been employed to encourage people to get vaccinated. For instance, the State of Ohio of the United States has been providing US$1 million every week for a lucky draw for five consecutive weeks; youngsters may receive full scholarships from state universities; even the controversial hunting rifles have become prizes of the lucky draw. It can thus be seen that the governments of various countries are well aware of the importance of vaccination to restarting the economy, and are ready to pay a high price for it.
The encouraging measure of the SAR Government so far includes only the provision of vaccination leave. Civil servants will be granted one day of leave for each dose of vaccine taken, and the attractiveness is pretty limited. Nevertheless, realizing that vaccination is the only way to get Hong Kong’s economy back on track, the business sector and different organizations actively responded to the “Early Vaccination for All” campaign launched at the end of last month. It is roughly estimated that the value of the rewards offered by the business sector so far is approximately $120 million. After developers have offered residential flats as rewards for the vaccination, they were followed by lucky draws of gold, chances to win $100,000 free credit card spending limits and free buffet for one year, etc. Dazzling prizes have been offered, involving numerous organizations. However, if members of the public want to take part in all the lucky draws, I believe they have much to prepare.
There is no doubt that the enthusiastic participation of Hong Kong’s business sector has provided a very strong incentive for people to get vaccinated, which is conducive to relaunching our economic activities as soon as possible. However, providing convenience to the public is also a substantial problem. Since the Government is not quite willing to get involved, the proposed Economic Stimulation Committee may play the role of a super connector. Apart from maintaining its continuous efforts to encourage other organizations in the business sector to participate, it can also consolidate the information of different lucky draws and upload it to a dedicated website, or even release the relevant information via the media on a regular basis for the knowledge of the public.
The electronic consumption vouchers to be disbursed soon also belong to measures to boost the economy. After the “black-clad violence” incidents occurred in 2019, local consumption has remained sluggish. Coupled with the fact that visitors from overseas and the Mainland were discouraged to come, many Members had already repeatedly requested the Government to use consumption vouchers to encourage local spending. The Economic Stimulation Committee can play an even more direct role in liaising with different trades and merchants for their participation in the electronic consumption voucher scheme, and setting out all the information in the most convenient form, e.g. compiling lists of restaurants and shops that offer additional discounts and their accepted means of payment. In other words, it helps to draw a map of consumption voucher to facilitate members of the public in dining, shopping and entertainment, so as to unleash their repressed shopping desire.
It requires a stable social environment to boost the economy. Item (2) of the motion highlights the importance of “extensively collecting public views” before formulating policies. I absolutely agree to this. Therefore, during the Chief Executive’s Question Time of the Legislative Council held last week, I asked the Chief Executive again if she would resume holding Community Dialogue sessions, with an aim to allow people from all walks of life to directly express their views to the Government.
Deputy President, rebuilding confidence cannot be achieved overnight, yet it will never be wrong to listen more to people’s views and share the public’s urgent concern. As Dr Junius HO’s amendment also seeks to improve people’s livelihood, I will therefore support both the original motion and the amendment.
I so submit. Thank you, Deputy President.