Filibuster on the Appropriation may see an end soon as members will begin voting the amendments next week. Big debate on the cooked food market, congestion problem and again political reform this week in LegCo.
May 11 Monday
Public hearing of the Public Accounts Committee
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man and several other senior officials from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department testified at the public hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on the latest Director of Audit’s report on cooked food markets.
There are currently a total of 75 public cooked food markets, comprising 11 Cooked Food Hawker Bazaars (CFHBs), 25 Cooked Food Markets (CFMs) and 39 Cooked Food Centres (CFCs). The report criticised the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for not taking “timely action” to deal with the “decreasing number of licensed hawkers operating in CFHBs and an increasing number of vacant CFHB stalls over time”. 11 CFHBs were found to have a vacancy rate of 61% on average, with the largest two having a vacancy rate of 75% and 81%. Of the total of 144 vacant stalls in these 11 CFHBs, 114 (79%) stalls had been vacant for over 10 years.
Dr Ko described the high vacancy rate a natural occurrence due to the Government has stopped issuing new hawker license since 1972. He also pointed out that the CFHBs are only temporary measures and agrees that those bazaars which have a high vacancy rate should be re-developed.
Meeting of Panel on Education
Discussion on cross-boundary students and to establish publicly-funded primary schools in Shenzhen. The number of cross-boundary students have risen from 9,899 in the 2010/11 school year to 24,990 in 2014/15. However, the Government says the surge is only temporary and the “zero delivery quota” implemented in 2013 will cause the number to fall. The Education Bureau also projects the overall demand of Primary One school places will decrease from 2019/20 onwards. “Setting up publicly-funded primary schools in Shenzhen is neither a viable nor desirable option to address the transient problem of a surge in cross-boundary students in Shenzhen,” the Bureau wrote in its papers to LegCo.
May 12 Tuesday
Meeting of Panel on Transport
Members discussed a report by the Transport Advisory Committee which suggested 12 measures, including raising first registration tax, licence fee, roadside parking fee as well as fine on parking violation to tackle traffic congestion. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung says the Government is considering implementing the measures in stages. Federation of Trade Unions’ Tang Ka-piu (FC- Labour) suggested to introduce a ballot system for licence application while Liberal Party’s Frankie Yick (FC- Transport) argued that raising first registration tax would not help alleviate the problem. The Panel, meanwhile, tended to agree on increasing the number of seats in minibuses
Meeting of the Subcommittee on Members’ Remuneration and Operating Expenses Reimbursement
Members discussed a Draft Report on the Review of Members’ Remuneration and Operating Expenses Reimbursement.
The total amount of Operation Expenses Reimbursement for members’ staff in 2013-2014 is $138,774 per month and has increased to $144,048 last year. The Draft Report includes survey results from 41 members. 41% (17 Members) agree to increase the salary of the Chairman of Finance Committee to be on par with the Chairman of the House Committee, which is one and a half times of the monthly payment of other members.
Chairman of the Subcommittee Emily Lau (GC- NT East, DP) says she hopes the Government can implement the changes within this session but chance is low as now is already May.
Meeting of Subcommittee on Proposals on the Method for Selecting the Chief Executive in 2017
Ip Kwok-him (FC- DC 1st, DAB) supported Secretary for Education Eddie Ng’s call for the principles in schools to support the Government’s package. Regarding recent polls suggested that fewer people support the package, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam says he “does not dare” to interpret the poll results, saying it “didn’t end well” for Government officials in the past who tried to interpret poll results.
Civic Party’s Claudia Mo (GC- Kowloon West) and DP’s Sin Chung-kai (GC- HK Island) asked if the Government will amend the package to get the support from the pan-dems. Again, Mr Tam replied that amendment to the package is not possible.
Meeting of Establishment Subcommittee
- Proposed creation of a Chief Electrical and Mechanical Engineer and a Principal Executive Officer to head the Vehicle Safety and Standards Division of the Transport Department and elimination the current CEO in the Division. Members approved with 26 to 0.
- Proposed creation of three temporary posts of one Principal Government Engineer, one AO and one Chief Engineer in the Airport Expansion Project Coordination Office under the Transport Branch of Transport and Housing Bureau for about three years to head the Office for steering and coordinating the related work of the Three-Runway System project. Monthly salary of the Principal Government Engineer ranges from $168,300 to $183,700; $144,700 to $158,250 for the AO; and $121,900 to $133,300 for the Chief Engineer. Discussion underway.
May 13 Wednesday
Meeting of Public Works Subcommittee
Discussion continued on the construction of West Kowloon Government Offices at a cost of $4,742.5 million. Helena Wong (GC- Kowloon West, DP) says the party supports the proposal in principle but she does not agree with the parking plan. She proposed to adjourn the meeting but was voted down by the pro-establishment members by 11 to 17. Discussion underway.
Filibuster continued on the 618 amendments to the Appropriation Bill, specifically on tourism issues. Pan-dems blasted the authorities for turning the city into a “paradise for parallel goods” and proposed cutting the budget for Tourism Board while the pro-establishment camp slammed the amendment as “filibustering for the sake of filibustering”. People’s Power and League of Social Democrats have requested counting for quorum for five times, suspending the meeting for more than an hour in total.
May 14 Thursday
Continuation of Council meeting
The LegCo entered the sixth debate session in which policies on population, education, arts and culture as well as sports were discussed. Pan-dem lawmakers have moved 86 amendments, including reducing the salaries for Secretary for Education and Secretary for Home Affairs. Voting on all 618 amendment will begin soon.