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Will it benefit Hong Kong?

The market response to the recent tender exercise for private hospital sites has not been as keen as expected a few years ago when the relevant policy was formulated. Some have attributed this to the loss of business from expectant Mainland mothers whose husbands are not Hong Kong residents. The same reason has also been cited in explaining the unexpectedly high service charges proposed by the private hospitals bidding for the sites.

I must make the following clear: That area of business is gone for good. The Government and I are determined to prohibit such Mainland mothers from giving birth in Hong Kong for the very simple reason that the price is too high for our society.

Before I called a halt to the policy of allowing such expectant Mainland mothers to give birth in Hong Kong, 30 000 babies were born here to non-local parents every year, making up a total of over 200 000 as at the end of last year. While this meant huge profits for obstetricians and hospitals providing maternity services, these babies impose a heavy burden on the local community because they are Hong Kong permanent residents by birth and are entitled to our public services such as health care and education. Take the shortage of Primary One places as an example. While we have just solved the problem this year, what shall we do next year when several thousand more children from across the boundary attend Primary One here?

Attracting Mainland women to give birth in Hong Kong by granting their babies the right of abode is not the proper way to develop our medical services industry. If our medical services sector cannot survive without this area of business, we had better review seriously the whole idea of its development as an industry. We need not, and cannot, force such industry development to happen.

After all, we have to consider the interests of the community as a whole in addition to those of the sectors concerned when we develop any particular industry. We must also take into account the direct and indirect social costs involved. We should review a plan in an objective manner after its implementation in the light of the outcome. The bottom line is this: Will it benefit Hong Kong?

March 17, 2013