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Transcript of SCA's media briefing after committee meeting

Following is the transcript of a media briefing given by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, after attending a meeting of the Committee on Governance and Political Development of the Commission on Strategic Development this afternoon (March 24) (English portion):

Reporter: Hong Kong is virtually not practising welfarism. Are there traces that you can detect in Hong Kong society that Hong Kong may be turned into a place that practise it if we have universal suffrage in place?

Secretary for Constitutional Affairs: I would say that for the time being, Hong Kong's public finances are rather prudent. We have been able to adhere to our own guideline of keeping public spending within 20% of the GDP. So on the whole the situation is pretty well under control now. We have also been able to eradicate deficits which have been accumulated over the last several years. In the meantime, we can maintain a low tax regime.

But as we journey down the path of introducing universal suffrage, whether it is going to be a directly-elected Chief Executive, or a fully elected Legislative Council, the members of that Council and the executive government will face public pressures, much in the same way as western politicians and political parties do face to introduce even more benefits for the public.

But I think on the whole, the Hong Kong community, members of our society are very sensible, and they would not expect unrealistic level of benefits from this Government. That is why it is quite useful for us to have this discussion today in the Commission on Strategic Development, with members underlining their support and agreement with the principles stipulated in the Basic Law, that is the ultimate aim should be to introduce universal suffrage while at the same time keeping financial prudence, fiscal balance and a low tax regime.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Friday, March 24, 2006