Thursday, April 17, 2014

The time for the ITB is now

Charles Mok defends the government’s decision to create an Innovation and Technology Bureau as a move long overdue.
The government has presented a proposal of establishing the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB). Do we really need an ITB?
First of all, let’s ask ourselves, are we satisfied with the state of our economy and its outlook in the long run? 
 
In LegCo debates, most of the members speak in support of promoting innovation and technology industries as a means to make Hong Kong’s economy more balanced and less reliant on the so-called ‘4 pillar industries’. Over the years, the government has introduced numerous funding schemes and technology infrastructure projects to boost the technology sector. Yet today our economic structure has hardly changed and the innovation and technology industry still remains nascent (generating only 0.7% of GDP in 2012, with no increase in the past 4 years at all). 
Our neighbouring economies have grasped the opportunity of the technology-driven economy to generate growth and transform, thanks to having top-level organisation that focuses on strategy and policy-making, as well as ensuring the follow-through is done properly. 
 
Our neighbouring economies have grasped the opportunity of the technology-driven economy to generate growth and transform, thanks to having top-level organisation
 
Singapore has a National Research Foundation directly reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office and a research board, A*STAR, that executes policies. Taiwan has established a board to oversee technology and scientific development since 1960s and has recently upgraded it to ministry level. South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning devises national strategy for technology development and is mandated to review and upgrade its strategy every 5 years.
 
In Hong Kong, technology is only one of the policy areas under one of the branches of a policy bureau. The CEDB simply has too much on its plate to give technology the attention that matches its importance.
 
Even since the replacement of the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau in 1998, and subsequently the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) in 2007, the information technology (IT) sector has been calling for the establishment of a technology bureau responsible for policy issues on IT, innovation and technology, and broadcasting.
 
The existing Communications and Technology Branch of the CEDB handles a whole range of heavy-weight policies such as telecommunications, broadcasting and creative industry, not to mention the SCED already needs to take care of commerce, industry and tourism. What we need is someone to be accountable, to look at the big picture, to work with different departments together and to be the champion of technology at the top level. Under the current structure, this initiative has to compete with loads of other equally important policies, and I would argue that insufficient attention results in slow implementation and lack of priority.
 
Part of the underlying reasons why we lag behind has to do with our manpower and education policy, our society’s culture and other systemic factors. I am not saying that having a Secretary and a bureau will change everything, but taking a first step is what we need right now to make progress. 
 
What we need is someone to be accountable
 
The government’s current proposal is relatively modest compared to the 2012 re-organisation proposal, which included the Technology and Communications Bureau. The government now suggests adding 8 new posts and reshuffling 26 existing posts from CEDB, Innovation and Technology Commission and Office of the Government Chief Information Officer. The ITB will cost over $32 million in its first year. I have previously proposed including the OFCA as part of ITB after the amendment of the Telecommunications Ordinance and Broadcasting Ordinance, and I still think it is best to put these policy areas under the same roof.
 
Investment in innovation and technology must be long term and persistent
 
One might think is this new bureau just going to do more of the same from the past. Many doubt what the new ITB can actually achieve. But the crucial thing is, do we want to let the current CEDB continue to waste our time and effort or take advantage of the government’s initiative to turn technology into a boost for our economy, a medium to improve standard of living for citizens, and most importantly, and better jobs for our young people. I choose the latter.
 
Colleagues in the LegCo often talk about the lack of upward mobility or types of jobs for young people. We debate this over and over again. Hong Kong cannot only rely on the graces of the Mainland government to survive and must look to the next wave of ‘innovative economy’.

From a pragmatic point of view, investment in innovation and technology must be long term and persistent. What society gets with the new ITB is a confirmation that our government is willing to take technology seriously, a Secretary to be charged with making progress, and a chance to get something done properly. Let us focus on making sure how this bureau will meet the needs of the industry as well as public expectation, instead of treating it with suspicion.

Published in Harbour Times (April 17, 2014) 

Standing Firm in Shanghai

Thirteen pan-democratic legislative councilors set off to Shanghai for the meeting with central government officials to discuss HKSAR’s constitutional reform on the evening of April 11. One (Hon Leung Kwok-hung) was sent back immediately after landing in Shanghai for bringing in “illegal materials” (June 4-related leaflets and T-shirts, and some books), causing two Labour Party members to also leave the group in protest the next morning. The last member of the original group of fourteen, Hon Alan Leong, decided on the 12th not to join the group, staying in Hong Kong in protest. 
 
So only ten out of fourteen of the original group staying for the meeting with Wang Guangya and other officials. Even among the ten of us, we seemed to be taking different approaches to the various programs of the mission – three went with the rest of the pro-establishment legislators to visit various facilities in Shanghai, five stayed in the hotel to work, and two others went to a university to meet with legal experts and then handed out leaflets in a local Hong Kong-styled café. Some criticized us as being split into pieces. 
 
That's far from the truth. Indeed, the pan-democratic spectrum has always been quite wide, and while we may differ in tactics, our common stance toward fighting for universal suffrage without screening for political reasons, and the reversal of the verdict on the June 4 massacre, remains solidly in place. Our supporters also have different views on the different tactics. Only the pro-establishment camp would always act in unison, whenever Beijing blows its whistle. 
 
More importantly, we stayed to meet with Mr Wang and other officials, and adamantly relayed Hong Kong people’s views, including their support for civic nomination and a 2017 CE election with no screening. We debated about what might constitute “love China, love Hong Kong,” and whether that could constitute a legal requirement for the nominations of CE candidates, as well as whether Hong Kong would be “ungovernable,” should we not achieve “true democracy” in 2017.
 
But in the end, did we come back empty handed? (other than the copy of the Basic Law Mr Wang gave us as “gifts.”) It’s true that we have not yet pushed Beijing to change its mind on civic nomination, but the pan-democrats did not give away an inch on our position either. For a first direct face-to-face meeting between the two sides, I would use the analogy of a nil-nil draw. Considering that this was an “away” game for us the pan-democrats, and some of our “players” did not even get on the field, I think we did pretty well coming out with a draw. We did not lose a point, even though we also did not get an “away goal.” 
 
Next, Hong Kong people need to continue to stand firm on our home turf, as Beijing has indicated that they will move the negotiations here, by holding “individual meetings” with legislators and hopefully other stakeholders in Hong Kong, especially those they “have not yet met.” If this is a PR campaign to sway us with a softer tactic, will it be successful? Such will be the ultimate test of Hong Kong people’s mettle.

Published in Harbour Times (April 17, 2014)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

四一三座談會講稿(2014.4.13)

王主任、李主任、張主任,你們好。我是公共專業聯盟的主席莫乃光,立法會資訊科技(信息科技)界議員。

我想把握時間首先提出的,是我對香港現在情況最大的擔憂,就是一個兩極化的現象。在這個香港政府本來說是「有商有量」的諮詢討論過程,結果是門一個一個的關,不是商量開可以怎樣一個一個的門,反而像是不斷的關門。而香港和香港人已經等了十七年,回歸後十七年,越來越多的市民感到焦慮,越不能接受講了等了十七年還叫我們循序漸進。就是在這情況之下,民意和社會自然更加激化。

中央的想法究竟是什麼?昨天看報導又有一位深圳法律學者說,學者提出的公民推薦方案不符基本法,當然,他和任何人都有他們的言論自由,但這些在有預設立場下利用基本法,維護一些政策立場的做法,香港人已經見得太多,結果我恐怕只削弱香港人對基本法的信心,削弱基本法的可靠性和可信性credibility。加上連一些相對溫和的方案,同樣被這些可能的代言人打壓,情況更加兩極化。政治爭議不向中間走,向兩極化,激進化,我相信三位也會同意,才是危險的。

在早上的專題講座,教授提到「規則制定權」,這個在國際事務上對國家來說,可能是一個意義,但我聽到卻令我想到,如果放在香港事務,就變成中央單方面制定基本法的解讀,在香港人的眼中,令基本法變成中央統治的工具。所以,我們在爭取普選這事情上,我們更必須強調國際標準 。

上星期我們公共專業聯盟宣佈了一個對我們成員專業人士的一個意見調查,之前我自己也對信息科技界的人士作了調查,結果都很接近。專業人士比較多在中產階層,過去我們一向都說香港的中產是很闊的,是香港社會穩定重要的階層。我們看看他們表達的原則和價值觀。

關於政制民主化,2017不能原地踏步,88%同意,只有不足5%認為可以等。

關於普選必須普及和平等,不可有篩選,以至代表主流政治意見的領袖不能被提名,以致出現政治審查,限制提名,也有76%同意,反對只有15%。這是代表主流政治意見的領袖,不是只說泛民。

關於普選安排符合國際公約相關規定,同意76%,反對只有12%。當然,我們肯定地了解,市民指的不只是一人一票這國際標準的這部分。

對個別方案原則,我們普選聯提出的三軌,包括公民提名、政黨提名,和提委會方面要擴大提委會代表性,廢除公司和團體票等,都有多數支持。

有些較後提出的方案,也是相對溫和的方案,比如香港2020、湯家驊的方案、學者方案,我們未有機會包括在調查之內,但我也希望中央可以開放態度的考慮,與我們討論這些方案的可操作性,不要一下子就否定。

相反,對於任何篩選,例如提委會經過二輪投票、半數通過、全票通過等的篩選,專業人士是72%壓倒性的反對,在IT界的調查也有75%反對。

所以,對無篩選的普選,是壓倒性的支持。這我想請中央不要漠視,不可低估,被一些既得利益者誤導,也不要再在所謂篩選的定義上,繼續太有創意地搞太多的「制定規則」。剛才大家談過「愛國愛港」,我覺得我們都是愛國愛港,雖然我覺得用這個作篩選標準,也是不好。

另外,取消功能組別,在這階段的諮詢中比較少提及,多謝王主任剛才主動提到雙普選。公共專業聯盟的調查中,有七成人認為就是2016年已經要取消功能組別,就是說,就算是2016不能,也要越快越好,2020不可以再遲。這些都是專業人士,大部分是功能組別的受惠者,但他們都看得到,如果不普選立法會,普選行政長官,香港將不能管治。如果像王主任說,香港的管治是發達國家普遍性問題,有了普選可以解決,那麼我們更肯定我們要見到真的沒有篩選的普選,否則我恐怕問題仍然不會得到解決。

最後,不可不提,梁國雄是我們立法會團體的一部分,他不能參與這個座談會,令他代表的聲音不能夠在這裡表達,是讓我們非常遺憾,也讓這兩天的活動氣氛緊張,另外三位原本來的議員都不留下或不來了。在這不利的環境,我們留下,是為了表達香港人的真實意見,和香港人對平反六四的堅持。多謝三位。

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

《2014年撥款條例草案》二度辯論發言稿

(主席,上星期我留意到一則新聞,就是智利北部發生了一次8.2級大地震。智利地理位置處於太平洋火山圈,是世界上發生地震最多的地方之一,可謂高危地區。因此智利非常重視避險,政府規定全國要每年進行地震逃生演習,而樓宇亦規定要有八級以上的抗震能力。可能因為咁,2010智利地震的威力是海地的一百倍以上,但智利的死亡人數就只有海地的百分之三。

我之所以講咁多,其實是想講避險意識的重要性。) 主席,香港作為開放型經濟體,在過去十至二十年間跟隨國際金融環境而經歷過多次『大地震』(,97-98年同08-09年發生嘅事大家都記憶猶新)。最近唔少傳媒都開始討論大陸經濟面臨熱錢撤離、壞賬飆升、樓市結冰的嚴峻境況,擔心會波及香港,甚至造成另一次金融海嘯。香港的經濟、民生在回歸以來越來越依賴大陸,現在的形勢顯示內地經濟有機會出現危機,香港必定要未雨綢繆,小心防範,政策亦不可只顧內交。

如果香港繼續靠內地自由行來港消費,講來講去又係填海、或者將成個大嶼山開發黎做旅遊起商場酒店。問題是,內地經濟不利的風險係咁上升,香港是否應該分散風險,發展多啲其他高增值行業,減低內地收水喉消費力減弱的震盪?政府點樣利用現時的財政儲備去改善經濟環境,絕對不容輕視。(我會由這個角度去看政府的財政預算案。)

本屆政府的施政報告一改以往較保守的作風,大手筆增加福利方面的經常性開支,幫助中低層市民;但另一邊廂財政司司長告訴我們,十五年後公共開支會大過收入,人口老化造成稅收減少和開支增加,未來7-10年有可能結構性財赤,要設立未來基金應付退休、醫療、社會福利及基建的開支。但淨係靠收埋筆錢係咪就可以確保香港中長期財政穩健?

有一點我相信社會是有共識的,就是不能長期依賴高地價帶來的賣地收入去支撐政府越來越多的教育、福利、醫療、基建等經常性開支。高地價對住屋和營商成本的副作用非常嚴重。之前辯論有關本土工業和產業多元化的議案時大家都同意,創新科技是未來全球經濟發展的引擎,而運用資訊及通訊科技幫助各行各業升級和轉型的步伐需要加快。

歸納本年度的預算案中的ICT相關措施,有三大範疇值得留意,分別是:推動本地ICT應用和發展、創新及科技支援,以及資訊科技教育措施。

ICT業

睇返過往政府對科技的著墨,2009-10年度的預算案演辭「科技」一詞總共出現了24次,但往後數年都按年下滑,去年更創新低,只有8次提及「科技」。今年就大反彈一共錄得26次。計算關鍵字出現次數,可說是見微知著折射出政府思維。我希望政府對IT界唔係派糖,曇花一現,亦都唔係好似港人港地咁,講一年之後冇晒影!

投資創新科技產業是必須長遠持續,不可以只期望短期回報。昨天互聯網名人堂(Internet Hall of Fame)頒發典禮在香港舉行,多謝財爺出席,你都見到不少得獎者都是以三四十年的研發工作而獲得認同,被列入名人堂。所以,科技發展是要長時候持續的。

從政府從事創科支援的往績來看,都是傾向出一大筆錢,但沒有周詳考慮如何執行,結果錢花了卻不見成效,應用研究基金就是一例,將基金管理外判私人公司付高昂的管理費。沙士期間政府曾與業界推出小型企業支援計劃,由政府出資補貼以低價向2000家中小企發售電腦。當年我負責的商會參與其中,估算合資格的企業卻超過13萬,可見雖然這些一次性措施意願是好,但實效不彰,因為沒有長遠措施配合。

今年財政預算案提出十多項創新和資訊科技相關的措施,響應了幾個月前施政報告提出設立創新及科技局的工作。雖然當中多為試驗性質,方向正確但好多都只是杯水車薪,希望當局可以再俾多啲資源,唔好雷聲大,雨點小。

例如向中小企推廣雲端運算培訓,問返當局先知原來只預留了三百萬!做幾個研討會,宣傳一下,仲可以做到什麼?又好似五千萬配對資金資助零售業用ICT,我希望個適用範圍會訂得比較闊,條款會靈活地俾中小企去用呢筆錢,用完亦可以再加碼,和擴充至其他行業。

預算案亦未有具體提及如何引入海外科網企業來港投資,這對創造本地優質創科相關職位十分重要,在土地規劃、與企業協商、提供優惠等方面,都需要政府出手帶動,不能再重蹈Google 放棄來港開設數據中心的覆轍。

另一方面政府亦要設法金融市場營造有利創投、科技企業集資的環境,吸引更多投資者和基金來港。我係之前的會議都向陳家強局長反映過,監管和金融發展政策要與時並進,科技界的持份者都已經好清晰話需要改善創業集資機制,例如活化創業板或者研究其他幫助所謂『微企業』募集資金的政策,包括crowd-funding。希望政策局可以同監管機構研究一下。

創新科技

就創新及科研的支援方面,政府打算透過創新及科技基金向大學提供最多2,400萬資助大學師生研究團隊創業,將科研成果商品化。我認為這是一個好的嘗試,起碼俾更多有好橋嘅老師和師生去試,營造一個生態系統。但我希望政府和大學定指標的時候尺度要適中,創業不是一個能夠預先計劃好的過程,如果要好似平時資助計劃下下要到指標或者三年之內要賺錢先叫做得,可能會令創意冇辦法發揮,最重要是學習的過程,因為好多創業家都唔係一次就成功。

業界方面,創新及科技基金今年將會設立「企業支援計劃」取代原有的「小型企業研究資助計劃」(SERAP),資助上限增加到一千萬,亦不再限制公司規模和要求公司還錢。我贊成這個轉變,相信新計劃會鼓勵更多中型公司做研發工作。但SERAP仍然接受申請,新的企業支援計劃條件較好,俾我係公司都會寧願等新計劃推出,所以希望新計劃盡快推出。

我希望政府回應業界訴求,增加研發開支扣稅。新加坡已經進取地係原先已經有400%扣稅之上再俾企業選擇研發開支配對現金回贈。我希望政府能夠考慮更多不同的稅務優惠支持創新。

教育

支撐創新和科技發展要靠下一代,但本港的資訊科技教育已經去到要急起直追的地步。政府計劃在一些IT表現突出的中學加精英班。近年選修高中ICT科目的學生數目大幅下降,以精英化模式培育專才是值得嘗試的方法,但長遠解決資訊科技人才不足的問題,當局應從基礎教育著手,提升整體學生的資訊科技能力。

而家問教育局所有嘢答案都係『遲啲公佈《第四次資訊科技教育策略》諮詢文件就會有答案啦』。我問過教育局關於在全港公營和資助學校鋪設WiFi,當局一直不肯講明要幾多年才可完成全港約1000間學校,其實我哋希望政府可以由現在起計三年之內完成,否則學生仲要等幾耐?有再好嘅課程同學習資源都無用武之地啦。

而家話先導只係做住100間先,但當中不少都係IT尖子或者直資學校等,真正條件差嘅就得少數。點解教育局只好錦上添花,不肯對症下藥?我希望當局公布這百間學校計劃怎用這筆資助,因為整好WiFi之後唔保養好,原來用唔到嘅,就白白浪費公帑。

至於其他教育界關心的訂立ICT教師專業資格、撥多啲資源請IT統籌員和取消ICT科目由其他老師兼教等影響學校做電子學習嘅問題,好多都冇答案。隨著應用IT越來越重要,「資訊科技綜合津貼額」過去三個年度津貼額大約維持在3億左右,但政府鼓勵採用購買服務的方式去處理學校IT,水平是否需要檢討?

總結:資訊自由、開放數據

發言結束之前我想講一下政府的apps和開放數據。(我向所有部門的一條提問裡面要求詳細列出政府開發流動應用程式的開支和下載數據,發現過去兩年淨係開發(唔計維護)用左接近2500萬元,有個別好似推廣基本法遊戲差不多一百萬埋單,亦有一些只得幾十次下載!問題是,開發前有冇研究過用戶需要,推出後又的推廣是否有效?雖然OGCIO話會推出平台和宣傳片,但問心邊個會睇電視之後特登搵個政府app用?)

另外,(一條我提出的問題是幫一些很有心推動開放數據的IT人問的,就係因為政府話會open by default,所以想)問政府打算將乜嘢資料用數碼格式發布。點知返黎答案就話其實已經上晒data.one,但我想知道其餘仲未放係上面嘅係乜,幾時會有!很多部門都對什麼是open data認識不深,也不太重視格式,好似上載了PDF就得,看來OGCIO還有很多"教育"要做!當局還需要繼續提升公共數據的質素,不止是提供PDF和HTML檔,而是機器可運算的資料。

提到OGCIO要教育其他政府部門,我亦有問政府多少電腦仍然用XP,其實行家一早知道四月八日開始停止支援,而OGCIO一早也出了指引,但原來政府仍然有三成電腦未做upgrade,OGCIO去教,有用咩?部門聽咩?這反映,政府推動IT的困難,財爺在政府行政架構上,必須要想法子增進效率!

創新及科技局的文件仲未公佈,但我一直提倡的是科技並不只發展經濟手段,更加是資訊自由和推動社會創新文化的工具。希望政府能夠多撥資源做好科技政策研究,不只是走回以往二十年兜兜轉轉的冤枉路。

主席,我謹此陳辭。

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

創新科技須勇往直前

創新科技須勇往直前

創新及科技局( 「創科局」)的政府文件即將提交立法會,梁振英一直隻字未提創科局的願景和策略,卻每每對外聲稱希望建議能夠在立法會「順風順水」。若以航海冒險來比喻特區政府發展創新和科技的過程,香港的「創新及科技號」十幾年前已經決定尋找寶藏,但下海之後幾年海面風高浪急,其後為求安穩,少有冒險勇進。到了今天,我們的創新和科技產業尚在海上漂浮打轉。

創新須不斷演變概念

政府即將換上新的船長重新起航,但我擔心若船長出海前方向未明,繼續因循舊航道,或者「只見大陸,不見全球」,香港的創新及科技產業不知何時才可追上全速發展創新經濟的地區。

我曾經多次撰文提倡制訂長遠的科技產業政策,適逢政府將開展籌備創科局的工作,本文參考其他國家政府對創新的視野,制訂、推動和量度創新的方式,以及提出本港可借鑑之處。

一直以來,創新多指把發明本身商品化,或把研究成果或創意轉為產品或服務。環視全球,各地政府均有為創新定義和制訂可量度的指標,進行系統化的「創新審核」(Innovation Audit),把創新表現化成可衡量和追蹤的指標,監察政府投入創新方面所創造的效益。

歐盟委員會自2000 年起量度有關27 個歐盟國家的研究和創新表現,以及各國制度的相對優劣。最近公布的2014 年《歐盟創新計分牌》報告(Innovation Union Scoreboard indicators 25 項指標評價各成員國的表現。指標分為三大類:驅動因素、企業活動和產出。指標共涵蓋八個範圍:人力資源、開放和吸引的研究體系、財務資源和資源、企業投資、串連與創業活動、知識產權、創新、經濟效果。

香港有關研發的統計數字主要來自政府統計署定期進行的《香港創新活動統計》,當中包括工商界、高等教育界和公營機構進行的技術創新和非技術創新活動的資料。創科局成立後,是否應該檢視現有的統計,以及研究一套更為全面的創新活動指標?整合和追蹤創新活動各環節的進展之餘,也方便和外國進行比較。

不少科技界朋友殷殷企盼創科局能打破困局,開創新景象。觀察所得,政府成立的新政策局傾向從經濟、技術、科研、產業的角度看待創新活動。值得留意的是,創新不能局限於科技,而亦須要協助散播和運用知識;提高創新和競爭力的關鍵,還有非技術層面的創新。

各國經濟體系的創新活動已經不再只集中於科技和技術,逐漸注重社會創新和以更開放的方式進行、注重創新方向多於速度的「需求方創新」。1994 年起經濟合作與發展組織進行國家創新系統實證研究,聚焦於知識擴散力和創新指標。根據《奧斯陸手冊》,技術性創新包括產品與服務的創新、流程與製作過程的創新,而非技術性創新則包括組織創新和營銷創新。

2011 年出版的《需求方創新政策》,則把需求方創新政策分為六類:政府採購、法規、標準、消費者政策、用戶導向型創新計劃和領先市場的行動計劃。歐盟各國對創新的官方定義各有不同,而對創新的理解直接影響政府的政策和措施。例如歐盟在的創新方面的領先地區如丹麥、芬蘭、德國和瑞典,政策近年從注重科技改變為重視政府、公共領域和社會創新活動。

丹麥政府正在公共採購領域大力推動創新,頒發政策規則,促使公共部門節省開支和購買更多環保產品。芬蘭的十大創新策略中包括以「提高創新解決方案需求」為指導制訂公共採購的原則和慣例等。

關鍵在於快速調整

流動電視風波已經揭示《電訊條例》和《廣播條例》的落伍過時。政府的角色除了資助技術研發,更重要的是認真檢討一些明顯落後的法例,以及引入獎勵創造社會效益的經濟政策,而不是在法例局限創新的時候辯說法例「有前瞻性」。

培養高科技人才是創新的基礎。各國在過去二十年調整國策,由單純技術創新過渡至科技創新,重視知識散播、教育和國際交流。美國國家科學委員會二月出版的報告顯示,中國的研發投入在過去十年以每年18%的速度增長,研發密集度快速爬升,而教育方面則大學畢業生修讀理工科目的比例高達三成。

在香港,政府多年投入不少資源於科技基建、資助大學和研發中心、各種研發項目等,但較少探討如何增加科技教育和將知識滲透至其他產業。最近的《財政預算案》提出向IT 表現出色的中學提供「精英班」和鼓勵大學團隊創業,政策長遠能否達到培育人才和產業發展,除了一般的項目數據以外,應該作較全面的社會和經濟效益評估,以追蹤政策成效。

新創企業推出產品前會不斷進行測試,透過收集數據和偵測錯誤來開發產品。矽谷創業界有一套精實創業(Lean Startup)的理念,精神就值得特首和政府借鑑。精實創業提出公司應該盡快推出產品的最小可行版本,通過收集數據和消費者反應,快速更新,來做出市場真正需要的產品。

正如船隻航行時不斷參考最新的氣象和海面情況調整航線,香港的「創新及科技號」要盡快到達目的地,值得研究如何提高政策改良的效率,改變以往需要五至十年才檢討一次的做法,以實證為本的評估改良政策,符合市場和社會所需。

立法會議員(資訊科技界)
莫乃光

刊於《信報財經新聞》2014.4.2

Thursday, March 27, 2014

就《捍衛學術自由》議案發言

主席,最近的台灣反服貿運動中,我看到台灣不少大學裡面講師和教授,紛紛挺身而出支持學生罷課上街爭取公義,將課室搬到街頭抗爭的最前線,有十幾位大學老師在『街頭民主大學』向學生們授課,這個畫面令我十分感動。

《基本法》第137條訂明『各類院校均可保留其自主性並享有學術自由』,不能允許任何人影響學者進行和發表研究的工作,以不能打壓知識分子表達意見和主張的自由。陳家洛議員今日提出的《捍衛學術自由》議案,正好提醒社會捍衛學術自由,保護學者進行學術研究和參與公共事務的重要。

過去多年學者被政治干預其取態或研究,相信大家都記憶猶新。例如科大成名教授曾因為支持五區公投天天被打手在專欄人身攻擊,佔中發起人港大法律系副教授戴耀廷及中大社會系副教授陳健民亦曾被左派報章日日猛烈批評。

2000年港大民調風波中,董建華的助理路祥安要求港大停止發布對特首施政不利的民調結果。結果港大校長鄭耀宗向鍾庭耀施壓,威脅會「陰乾」他們的經費。2011年港大民調發表《港人身份認同》調查結果,對「中國人」身分認同感則跌至十二年新低。中聯辦宣傳文體部部長郝鐵川高調批評調查方法「不科學」和「不合邏輯」。歷史好似不斷重演,張文光議員曾經在2012年4月25日於立法會動議「捍衛學術自由與院校自主」,但是所有議案和修正案都被否決,今日我們看看結果會怎樣。

不論當權者點樣『視民意如浮雲』,對民意調查都是輸打贏要,低的時候就質疑你,近期回升一些又乘機大做文章,話自己做得幾好。 到今年,又是政治年,對學術自由的政治干預不斷升級,今年港大民調再次被針對,指控更嚴重,更政治化,不再是政府幕後干預,而是利用左派人士、傳媒力量文攻和直接上北京『告御狀』。

今年人大政協開會期間,有某位左派人士公開發言批評香港大學民意研究計劃,指港大民調總在關鍵時刻發表對中央政府、特區政府,以及整個愛國愛港陣營十分不利的民調結果。其後得到行政會議成員張志剛附和,並接連批評民調有政治動機。之後連日來左派報章就出現鋪天蓋地對鍾庭耀的人身攻擊和口誅筆伐。其實,這些人在關鍵時刻攻擊反對聲音,才是鐵一般的事實!

民調對你有利就話佢專業,話你低民望就出招揼。港大民調用嘅方法或得出來的結果係咪有不足,可以攤出來討論,但執著人家得出的結果,以『政治動機』呢種下三流手段抹黑一個幾十年來進行專業學術研究的學者,但又拎唔到實質證據,就看得出有某些人要用盡方法粉飾太平,掩蓋市民對政府(特別是梁振英)的不滿。市民未必有心機了解複雜的統計學,開動傳媒機器大力轟炸,打擊港大民調的公信力,為質疑政改關鍵時刻的民意調查做準備功夫。

我支持葉建源議員修正案裡面提出要『支持高等院校維護其獨立和自主』。捍衛學術自由不但政府有責任,大學管理層同樣有責任。政府和高等教育機構都沒有保障教師和研究人員的制度,往往每當有有人試圖利用政治手段影響學者的獨立性,都會因為大學閉門造車而要在校外聯署、發聲明。我認為,建立制度保障學術自由,確保學者免受干預和免於恐懼,對於維護院校自主非常重要。

廖長江議員的修正案鼓勵大學學者『專心從事學術研究』、『以正面及負責任的態度參與公共事務』。專心、正面、負責任這些措辭,俾我感覺到他在找理由質疑學者參與公共事務喎 。而葛珮帆議員的修訂鼓勵各界討論學術研究,但又說現在沒有問題,這其實是否又在找藉口干預? 而黃碧雲議員的修訂強調反對政治施壓,這點我是十分贊成的。

我必須要重申,學術問題大家用理性態度探討沒問題,但現在清晰出現的是帶有政治目的、針對學者本人的人身攻擊,這已經超出一般學術討論的範圍。如果政府只繼續話『任何機構和人士都可就不同事務發表意見』,默許中聯辦官員和相關的人利用左派報紙,用大量充滿語言暴力的文章干擾學者發表意見和研究的權利,甚至以官員或行會成員帶頭干預,我們作為議員和市民都應該清晰發聲對抗。

學者們專業地進行研究,或者理性、清晰、獨立地對社會的重大問題發聲,擔當社會的良知,捍衛香港社會的原則和價值。在大是大非當前,學者如果不出來發聲,絕對是社會的損失。政府應該阻止任何干預學術自由的舉動,絕不能讓香港的學術自由和討論空間在輿論攻勢和抹黑之下缩窄。

主席,我謹此陳辭。

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

就《汽車(首次登記稅)條例》動議的擬議決議案的發言

主席,但我不是法案委員會的成員,但我支持《汽車(首次登記稅)條例》的修訂,想表達我的意見。

先申報,我是開混能車的,但都想如果下次援車會援電能車,不知道到時會否受惠。

電能車仍然未是主流,說免電能車的銷售稅是濫用豁免,但假如可以環保一些,也不算濫用。我明白張超雄議員擔心「以公帑資助有錢人買奢侈玩具」,這我在理念上不能同意。

首先,環保不分貧富。而市場推出新的電能車產品,的確會先推出高價車,加上產量較少,技術較新,價錢較貴。單仲偕議員提出累退稅制,但其實這些車價都較貴,雖然車其實反而較細,並非豪華,所以其實意義不大。

這其實是雞和雞蛋的問題,市場必先出貴車,電能車會較貴,自然也是資源較多的人才會先考慮購入;他們不買,價錢也不會下降,較廉價的車也不會被推出市場。

這和香港很多環境問題一樣,如果不起步,永遠都停步。

我亦認為,如果真的有300架高性能的汽車被人落了order,其實在整個香港不算多,但在電能車只得五、六百數目上,比例是大的,我反而覺得證明免稅是有用的,如果沒有資助,少了order,反不是好事。

法例有穩定性是重要的,尤其電能車的接受全球偏低,這正要鼓勵嘛!我們香港也要盡全球一分子的責任。

如果說豁免不公道,不買車的人更多,優惠只給買車的人,甚至買沒有那麼貴的車的人,對完全不會買車的人,豈非都是不公道?

數星期前,我去過矽谷,訪問過一些大型科技公司,他們都已大力推動電能車,公司車如是,亦提供特別方便的車位給員工的電能車。很多年輕員工都表示想等他們開發的自動駕駛汽車,而這些汽車都是用電能車的,將來他們更計劃把電能車,好像單車一樣,可以分享使用。如果電能車不能普及,難道最後分享的自動駕駛汽車,反而要用汽油車?

我反而認為,政府和各界要全力推動電能車文化,包括這個稅務豁免。如果把豁免期縮短,會發出錯誤訊息。

Speech on the Second Reading of the Loans (Amendment) Bill 2014

Mr President, I speak in place of the Hon Kenneth Leung, chairperson of the Bills Committee on Loans (Amendment) Bill 2014, who is on sick leave today.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Loans Ordinance to accommodate the issuance of Islamic bonds, i.e. sukuk, under the Government Bond Programme. The Bills Committee, of which I am also a member, has held one meeting with the Administration to discuss the Bill. It has also invited written views from the public but received no submissions.

The Bills Committee notes that allowing sukuk issuance s under the Government Bond Programme will help diversify the financial products and services for the Hong Kong financial markets, further promote Islamic finance in Hong Kong through encouraging issuers to raise funds by issuing sukuk, and reinforce Hong Kong’s status as a major international financial center and an asset management center. The Bills Committee supports the Bill in principle. I shall now turn to the major issues deliberated by the Bills Committee.

The Bills Committee has examined the need to amend the Loans Ordinance and studied how the proposed amendments operate in achieving the purpose of the Bill.

The Administration explains that as asset transactions involved in sukuk may not be regarded as “borrowing” in the prevailing context of the Loans Ordinance, it is necessary to amend the Ordinance to encompass the situation in which the Government shall be regarded as “borrowing” moneys from the Special Purpose Vehicle set up to effect sukuk issuance. This will enable the funds so raised to be credited to the Bond Fund. It is also necessary to amend the Bond Fund Resolution to allow payments to be made out of the Bond Fund Resolution to allow payments to be made out of the Bond Fund for meeting the coupon and redemption payments to holders of sukuk issued under he Government Bond Programme, as well as the expenses incurred in relation to the issuance of sukuk. Furthermore, the Bill also amends the Inland Revenue Ordinance to exempt coupon payments and disposal gains derived from the sukuk issued in connection with the Government Bond Programme to enjoy the same profits tax exemption as that currently applicable to those in relation to conventional bonds.

As issuance of sukuk under the Government Bond Programme may have implications on other types of bonds issued under the programme and the local bond market, the Bills Committee has sought information on the Administration’s considerations in launching sukuk under the Programme, the target investors and offering mechanism involved, as well as management of sukuk proceeds.

Members of the Bills Committee note that the Administration will determine the timing and actual issuance size of sukuk under the Government Bond Programme with regard to the prevailing market conditions and needs. The preliminary thinking for the inaugural sukuk issuance may be in the size equivalent to around US$500 million or more. The Administration envisages that the investors as they are major players in the global sukuk market. The Bills Committee further notes that depending on market interest and developments, the Administration may consider extending sukuk issuance under the Government Bond Programme to retail investors in future.

As far as the offering mechanism is concerned, the Administration may engage financial institutions and legal advisers in arranging the deal through a Special Purpose Vehicle.

On the management of sukuk proceeds, the Administration advises that investment return for the Bond Fund is calculated based on the average annual rate of return of the Exchange Fund’s investment portfolio oer the past six years or the average annual yield of three-year Exchange Fund Notes for the previous year, whichever is the higher.

The Bills Committee has expressed concern about the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s sukuk platform vis-à-vis those of other jurisdictions in attracting international sukuk issuers and investors given that major Islamic financial centers, such as Malaysia, have well-developed sukuk markets, and that Hong Kong lacks ties with Islamic communities.

In response, the Administration advises that the Inland Revenue and Stamp Duty Legislation (Alternative Bond Schemes) (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 passed by the Council in July last year has enhanced Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the development of a sukuk market by providing a comparable taxation framework for some common types of sukuk vis-à-vis conventional bonds. Coupled with the core strengths of Hong Kong financial market, Hong Kong is now on a better footing to promote Islamic finance through encouraging issuers to raise funds by issuing sukuk. The Administration considers that sukuk issuance under the Government Bond Programme will signal to the markets that Hong Kong’s legal, regulatory and taxation frameworks are well established to accommodate sukuk issuances. This will give further impetus to other potential sukuk issuers to raise funds in Hong Kong. An inaugural sukuk issuance originated by the Hong Kong Government, with an excellent credit rating of AAA, will draw attention and interest in the global market and attract a new group of investors from the Middle East and other parts of the world to Hong Kong’s financial platform.

In view of increasing competition from other financial centers in developing the sukuk market and Islamic finance, the Bills Committee has stressed the need for the Administration to make concerted efforts with relevant parties to promote Hong Kong’s sukuk platform, including increasing exchanges with other financial centers to foster cooperation and to keep abreast of latest developments in the global sukuk market. Moreover, members of the Bills Committee have urged the Administration to ensure a sufficient supply of professionals and market practitioners with expertise in sukuk issuance and Islamic finance which is vital to the development of sukuk market and Islamic finance in Hong Kong.

The Administration has stressed that the strengths of Hong Kong’s bond market, including sukuk market and the listing platform, are among the key features in the promotional work targeting international investors in recent years. The Administration has been collaborating with relevant parties, such as Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices and the market, in promoting Hong Kong’s sukuk platform overseas, and keeping a close contact with the industry to encourage them to issue sukuk in Hong Kong. The Administration assures the Bills Committee that it will continue to seize every possible opportunity to promote Hong Kong’s bond market and its sukuk platform when meeting with institutional investors, issues and asset managers.

On the promotion of market awareness of Islamic finance, the Administration has pointed out that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has been in close collaboration with overseas central banks, international organizations and local industry bodies to offer training for market practitioners. Over the past few years, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has organized a series of Islamic finance seminars and workshops covering a wide range of topics. The Bills Committee notes that these activities have received enthusiastic market response and provided opportunities for Hong Kong market practitioners to interact with their overseas counterparts and exchange views on issues relating to Islamic finance and sukuk issuance.

Regarding cooperation with major Islamic financial markets, the Administration advises that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has been maintaining a close partnership with key Islamic financial markets, such as Malaysia and Dubai. Moreover, the Securities and Futures Commission has been working closely with its counterparts from major Islamic markets, including signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dubai Financial Services Authority in 2008 for mutual cooperation on capacity building and human capital development in Islamic finance, as well as the promotion and development of the Islamic capital market.

Given that sukuk have more complex structures than conventional bonds, the Bills Committee considers it important for the Administration to ensure a robust regulatory regime over sukuk issuers ith a view to providing adequate protection for sukuk investors.

The Administration has assured the Bills Committee that, similar to other financial products, sukuk are subject to the prevailing regulatory regime in respect of product offering, marketing, disclosure, and intermediaries requirements in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Securities and Futures Ordinances and the Companies Ordinance. These include the requirement on sukuk issuers to seek authorization from the Securities and Futures Commission on the issuance of any advertisement, invitation or document, which is or contains an invitation to the public to enter into or offer to enter into an agreement to acquire the relevant sukuk products, unless an exemption applies. The Bills Committee notes that as institutional investors will be the target investors of sukuk issued under the Government Bond Programme, certain exemptions under the Securities and Futures Ordinance will apply.

Neither the Bills Committee nor the Administration will propose Committee Stage amendments to the Bills. The Bills Committee supports redemption of the Second Reading debate on the Bill.

Mr President, the following is the view on the matter related to the Loans (Amendment) Bill 2014 of the Hon Kenneth Leung and that I share, on the opportunities and the pressing need for promoting the Hong Kong Dollar Bond Market.

Hong Kong is a leading international financial centre with a stock exchange which ranked the top globally for funds raised from initial public offering from 2009 through 2011.

However, in order to stay competitive, Hong Kong needs to capitalize on other key successful factors and take a holistic approach in promoting our financial platform.  Developing the local bond market not only enriches the diversity of the financial products but is also a key component which meets the intrinsic needs of institutional and retail investors.

The majority of local investors have very limited choices if they are looking for a long-term investment instrument with stable return.  It is therefore not surprising to see the soaring property prices in recent years under a low-interest rate environment.

For those who cannot afford to buy properties, they probably have to invest in more risky and turbulent markets such as the equity market, foreign exchange and commodity  – or others, such as the victims of the Lehman Brothers incident,  they would have tempted to invest in complicated structured products to earn a slightly higher yield than normal time deposits.

I also believe that a mature and liquid Hong Kong dollar bond market is crucial for stabilizing and sustaining investment returns for Hong Kong’s retirement population.

A sizable Hong Kong dollar-denominated debt securities market can offer more options for MPF funds.  Bonds issued by local reputable institutions, in particular, help provide employers and employees with relatively low-fee alternatives, and  earn reasonably stable returns while enjoying the compound interest benefits. Of course, those with more aggressive risk appetite may always choose MPF funds with higher risks, higher returns and higher management fees, like stocks fund. The Government should encourage and facilitate the provision of a more risk-balanced choice of funds, and the rest will be market-driven.    

Indeed, Mr. President, Hong Kong does not lack competitive advantages required for deepening and broadening the local fixed income market.

We have a sophisticated business infrastructure and transparent regulatory environment. A triple A credit rating status (S&P long-term credit rating) which can minimize the cost of the Government, statutory bodies and government-owned corporations for fund raising through issuance of securities papers.

Unfortunately, the Government fails to perform its role in promoting Hong Kong dollar debt issuance.  Based on FSTB’s statistics, the Government, Statutory bodies and Government-owned corporations made in total 654 issuance, with a total amount of around HK$264.2 billion Hong Kong dollar debt securities* between 2003 and 2012 or 13.2% of the total HKD debt securities issued in the same period, excluding Exchange Fund Bills and Notes (“EFBNs”) issued by the HKMA.

Compared with other international financial centres, Hong Kong is lagging behind in terms of scale of issuance.

Perhaps one may say that our huge reserves justify the conservative position of the Government. But I am afraid this is somewhat myopic.

As Hong Kong Government is going to invest as much as HK$340 billion in mega projects including a new airport runway, new development areas and reclamations in the coming years (Budget 2014-15), it is high time for the Government to leverage this golden opportunity to speed up the development of Hong Kong dollar bond market as an alternative financing channel rather than to be over reliant on public revenues alone.

This is particularly true when the Government is subject to a financial commitment to address the needs of the poor and our aging population.

To achieve this, we need a number of positive actions:

1. The active participation of the Government, statutory bodies and government-owned corporations in using the Hong Kong dollar bond instrument to raise funds for these mega projects where possible;

2. Expedite necessary enhancements on regulatory and infrastructural supports to improve market liquidity (e.g. enforcement of underwriters’ market making responsibilities, setting up of an electronic platform for online retail trading, provision of a central depository system for HKD bonds); and

3. Promote investor awareness and demand through education programs.

Development of the sukuk market or RMB bond market should not be hindering the growth of the Hong Kong dollar bond market. Instead, we should head for diversity which will make the bond market as a whole fly in Hong Kong.

Together, the different types of bonds will attract a critical mass of fixed income traders, buyers and issuers which will support the healthy growth of the instrument.

I would urge the Government to take up its pivotal role in accelerating the development of HKD debt market with a view to achieving a more diversified and  resilient financial sector in Hong Kong.  Thank you.


*Note:  HKD debt securities include bonds, shorter-term papers such as bills, and other types of fixed income instruments. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

就《鼓勵工業界回流發展,令本港產業更多元化》動議的發言

1.         主席,回歸初期特區政府已經開始講經濟轉型,遇上金融風暴,結果經濟多元化停留於口號,香港人繼續沉迷炒股炒樓。珠三角城市競爭力提高,南中國發展現代服務業之後,如果香港經濟轉型繼續原地踏步,十年後真係唔知仲有幾多老本。所以我支持鍾國斌議員提出這項議案,因為其實不只講香港工業面對的問題,亦係香港其他產業發展的困境。

(2.         現狀係點呢?2008至2012年傳統四大支柱行業,除了旅遊佔GDP增加近百分之二,其餘的貿易物流和專業服務都維持原狀,金融業甚至輕微下降。二月底發佈的統計處數字可以睇到,六個優勢行業2012年對經濟直接貢獻都少於GDP的百分之五。過去五年,除左文化及創意產業有增加1個百分點之外,其餘的附加值幾乎『零增長』。創新及科技過去四年的附加值只係維持在百分之0.7。說明什麼?)

3.         唔知大家仲記唔記得CEPA原本做乜?本來話,是為製造業創造機會,為數以百計的產品如果在香港製造就可以免關稅入內地,結果製造業那部分就無人理,無人做,只有服務業方面,啲老闆就投資哂入去內地,連啲工都搬入去,專業人士又入去,製造業始終食白果。

4.         CEPA對工業已經失敗了,如果政府再浪費時間和資源將制訂政策外判俾啲委員會同諮詢組織,唔肯切切實實做嘢,香港就會被周圍城市拋離得更快。我哋需要創造更多服務業、零售業以外的工作,俾人人有工做。比起政府派糖,產業多元化對中產和基層市民生活更有幫助。

4.         同香港唔同,新加坡繼續保持投資製造業,同服務業一樣都係經濟支柱之一。2013年新加坡的金融和商業服務業貢獻國內生產總值約28%,製造業就有大約五分一,近十年來所佔的比例大致平穩。這歸功於新加坡政府用政策和銀彈攻勢吸引企業設廠,加上大力投資研發和高等教育。香港點解唔得?

5.         香港的土地在高地價政策同地產商囤積之下被炒到天價,唔好話用地做工業,連寫字樓嘅租金到差不多全球最高。加上人工等等其他經營成本,係香港搞工業冇可能同內地競爭。要產業多元化,香港應該集中發展下一個世代需要的科技,尤其是像梁繼昌議員修訂所講『高技術、高增值、低污染』而唔需要咁多土地的工業。這些產業都需要科技研發支持。

6.         原議案提出“扶助新產業發展”,我認為政府應積極地用政策和有效地投放資源,振興創新及科技產業,帶動本地工業回流和升級。以美國為例,「製造業回流」是奧巴馬重要的施政方向之一。美國政府2010年起鼓勵商界本地生產和採購,振興Made in USA,我這上星期在美國買的英國品牌領呔,竟然都是 Made in USA 。

7.         美國政府亦大量投資於提升幫助生產的技術,例如3D打印技術、人工智能、機械人結合數碼製造技術,籍此改造製造業降低成本,將科技和傳統製造業融合,升級和提高附加值。

8.         今年財政預算案的措施反映出特區政府有再次推動創新及科技的意願,在成立創新及科技局前提出種種措施。但靠那些小修小補的措施並不足夠,我認為政府有幾方面必須進一步加強:土地、投資、人才。最重要是制訂有系統的創新和科技發展策略,並要加快政策改良的週期。

9.         土地:
單仲偕議員的修正案提出要活化工業邨和預留更多土地發展數據中心,這兩點我是同意的。位於大埔、元朗及將軍澳的三個工業邨使用率都超過九成以上,將一些生產效益和規模較小的租戶升級或遷出可以騰出部份空間應付空間不足的問題。政府擴建工業村的同時,亦應該考慮為高增值產業例如制藥、機械製造等提供誘因,減少有可能造成污染和影響附近居民的項目。

(10.      投資:
政府最近提出三項有關創新及科技基金的新措施,其中包括擴大創新及科技基金的資助範圍到工業設計等等。但在鼓勵私營企業研發投資方面,附近地區例如新加坡都非常進取。因此除了透過資助計劃以外,我認為政府亦應該考慮為企業增加稅務優惠,例如將本地研發開支利得稅扣稅上限增加至百分之150,吸引企業在香港進行研發。

11.      人才:
我贊成陳婉嫻議員修正案中“開辦職業和技能課程”的建議,但我認為亦應該政府支持各大學科技相關學系提升課程水平,例如開辦更多具前瞻性的科目、增加和業界合作提供課程和實習機會,並逐步增加各大學的資訊科技、電腦及工程系的學士學額,彌補多年前被削減的學位,配合產業擴張政策所需的人力資源。)

12.      總結而言,要振興工業包括製造業,同科技發展一定分唔開。政府應該清楚勾劃出未來五年、十年發展科技產業的方向,睇下未來最有潛力的係乜嘢,照香港的定位吸引邊類型的產業進駐。我一直提出制訂中長期科技產業政策應該是未來創新及科技局的主要工作之一。各國都以科技政策為經濟發展的核心,並設中長期規劃機制,規定政府要定期評估未來需求和制訂政策,並撥出資源執行和量度。

13.      政府即將提交有關創新及科技局的建議,我希望政府不只是將相關部門放於同一政策局,而會認真研究香港如何用科技推動不同產業多元化發展,制定產業政策,尤其是能夠創造就業機會的本地工業包括製造業。

14.      主席,我謹此陳辭 。

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