Financial Secretary Paul Chan has proposed allocating HK$20 billion for the purchase of 60 private properties to accommodate over 130 new welfare facilities.
The facilities will include day child care centres, neighbourhood elderly centres and on-site pre-school rehabilitation services, among others. The new centres are expected to benefit around 86,000 people.
“When planning for the provision of more welfare facilities, we are often faced with a shortage of venues,” Chan said in the annual budget issued on Wednesday. “This problem is particularly prevalent in densely-populated areas, where demand for welfare services is indeed acute.”
Permanent Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury (Treasury) Alice Lau said at a press conference following the announcement that the policy was proposed by the Labour and Welfare Bureau.
“The consideration was that, in densely populated areas, it will be difficult to find land for social welfare services,” she said, adding that the government will not be looking for residential properties.
When asked what the government could do if owners increase the selling price of their properties, Lau said she believed government bureaus would carefully consider such factors.
In defending the policy, Paul Chan said a similar move was adopted by the government in 1995 to purchase properties for social services.
Chan was also asked how the government might prevent the perception that it would be colluding with business when purchasing property. In response, he said the process would be conducted by the Government Property Agency.
“The government has a comprehensive procedure to declare interests, and the procurement process will be monitored by law enforcement. We have confidence in our system,” he said.
He also said the procurement process would be carried out over several years, adding that the government has an open attitude in deciding whether to purchase or rent the spaces: “It depends on what the bureau believes to be the best way to find the properties to provide services as soon as possible,” he said.