Thursday, April 16, 2015

就《2015年撥款條例草案》二讀的發言

主席,一個財政預算案應該包括什麼?駛幾多錢,點樣駛錢?收入幾多,從哪裡來?當然,財政要分配資源,即是說一定會定出優次,亦應該包括發展方向。香港好幸運,收入從來不是大問題,今年財政司司長增加以開放數據格式發放預算案資料,有些年輕人在發布預算案後的週末,聚在一起分析數據,他們都問我,點解全部在講點駛錢,無講或者好少講,揾咗好耐才找到講收入的部分。

的確,即使在立法會,同事們都是在要求政府這裡花多些資源,那裡派多些糖等等。過往,不少同事都批評,預算案只集中短期派糖,爭取短期民意的浮雲,缺乏長期策略投資。不過,2015-16年度財政預算案,以『多元發展、擴大優勢』為題,不過其實對於各行各業的支援或者策略發展措施,仍然欠奉,不過,我們的創新和科技產業,已經算好彩,提及的篇幅相當大,但都是短期措施為主,缺乏長期的具體目標、策略,可以講是,問題未解決,香港仍然是靠運氣,食老本。

要推動創新和科技,最重要的是營造環境要長遠地推動本港的創新及科技,不論法律、土地、基建、人才教育等,都要有妥善規劃才能建立健康的本地創業風氣。政府至今無規劃,無藍圖,無問責,無KPI這些的表現指標評核。

早前曾司長發表網誌文章,寄語年輕人創業前要先做足準備,是對的;創業難,守業更難,政府不只向創業者派錢,還應該為未來投資,敢於承擔風險,播下更多有助創新的種子。俾錢鼓勵青年創業不是萬能,重要的是營造環境,不應閉門做車、要開放,香港的優勢是國際化,不只強調與大陸合作。

其實打本給年輕人創業本身不是壞事,但倒頭來如果政府都只是幫他們「開個頭」,事實上有好多業界朋友都同我講,除了研發,在宣傳推廣方面,當局的支援不足,難怪我們一直說,香港的研究結果商品化成績不好,例如中小企市場推廣基金是資助外銷推廣,但對於發展方向不同的企業卻沒有幫助。所以即使成功創業,要再進一步擴充和宣傳推廣時仍會欠缺資金,生意可能無以為繼。

科技園公司會預留五千萬元設立「科技企業投資基金」,以配對形式與私人資金共同投資園內或孵化計劃的初創企業。點解「科技企業投資基金」只限科學園孵化計劃下的公司?金額加埋都係三幾億,夠唔夠?希望日後能擴大範圍和金額,刺激用戶和市場對科技服務和產品的需求。但如果政府同意這個基金的方向咁重要,點解自己不負起責任,反而交給科技園公司靠自己少少五千萬去做,又加諸這麼多限制?

早前我建議當局研究推動金融科技和電子商貿,以免香港落後競爭對手。預算案宣佈財經事務及庫務局將成立督導小組,與業界、科研和監管機構合作研究推動香港作為金融科技中心。我認為方向正確,因為不止倫敦,新加坡在群眾募資方面都非常積極,香港必須加快步伐,以免錯失時機。

昨日我剛參與了一個有關金融科技的活動,講者十分年輕,講網上借貸在中國美國已經做到幾大,但香港大幅落後。內地的微借貸、手機支付已經非常成熟,相對手機搖下就過數,香港實在仲有好遠嘅路要走。仲喺度話做電子支票,佢地話人地根本不用支票啦,原來,做電子支票最大得益者,又是大銀行這些既得利益者,香港的政策往往就係咁。創新如果不能打破現行的秩序,怎夠創新?

的確,在香港監管者重視風險管理,政策局就重視金融系統穩定,但業界最關心係點樣有創新的商業模式可以吸引兼備科技和金融專業知識的人才返黎香港發展,打破中介者的壟斷,增加競爭,為用戶和消費者創造新的增值,其實,這樣才能確保消費者權益,否則,只是保護既得利益者的利益。

議員過往不斷向當局質詢Bitcoin(比特幣)問題,但當局只回應話覺得冇可能做到貨幣,等督導小組成立研究。證監會去年就發出通告,警告群眾集資可能違法云云。新加坡已經為監管交易平台和Bitcoin櫃員機訂立指引和法例,亦將比特幣列為主要的財政會議議程。我在特別財委會提出,希望政府可以早日解釋研究方向,亦指出當局對Bitcoin等的風險的言論,令業界感到洩氣。局長回答才清楚指出,近期個案是騙案,而Bitcoin等背後的Blockchain技術是具發展潛力的。

政府唔好得個講字,應該要實際俾資源去支持研究金融科技。政府會否考慮引入風險可管理而對中小企有靈活性的群眾貸款?市場和私募基金需要知道政府工作方向和時間表,要求政府承諾諮詢相關持分者。增加市場期望的確定性,以保我們香港不再落後?


主席,其實香港現在面對最大的問題,是人才供應不足。本地出生率下降,教育與市場需求錯配,政府對這些問題視若無睹,完全沒有策略面對。雖然政府說將會“優化”創業移民計劃,跟隨海外吸引創業人才計劃的方向。申請的公司未必可實時賺取利潤,故外國政府至少會要求公司有一定規模,制造就業機會,否則,香港這麼多移民顧問公司,恐怕他們很快會變成創業移民顧問公司,又是政策未見其利,先被利用。與其只想輸入外地內地人才,點解完全沒有策略性地投資本地教育,和好像一些外國一樣,再培訓甚至中年的人士,甚至可以加入創新及科技的產業?


除了增加資助科研和創業,政府也應檢討政策,為科技界的未來創造更多發展空間。例如採購更多本地的科技產品和服務,以及改變一直為業界詬病,主要以外判和聘請臨時合約員工進行資訊科技項目的政策。

我今年在預算案的質詢裡面跟進關於非公務員合約(NCSC)僱員轉聘為公務員編制的問題,因為有不少NCSC人士向我反映,他們轉聘為公務員困難很多,不只是數目少,更大問題是要降到較低職位才可以入職申請,這對做NCSC越耐的人越不公平,變相叫他們想也不要多想,而更大的問題是,政府帶頭外判,令行業人才發展非常不健康,還說支持發展創新科技?


主席,繼去年首次以試算表格式發放開支預算摘要後,今年以更方便應用開發者和數據分析的CSV格式發放。網上已出現了一些政府開支的互動圖表,希望日後政府陸續發佈更多有關開支和收入的數據集,促進分析和開發應用。


主席,英國政府最近發表了推動金融科技的策略建議文件,好值得參考。他們的第一個建議,成立顧問委員會,我們做了。第二個建議是有趣的,他們說政府要為業界、學界和第三界別(即公民社會、民間、媒體等),創造挑戰("create a programme of grand challenges")。這概念是很重要的,英國要求各持分者參與創造需求,而非將香港過往的行業政策,只顧支援這裡、支援那裡這些供應措施。

第三個建議,是支持應用大數據、數據分析,亦要了解相關金融科技對社會和經濟的裨益。這也是很重要的,社會不了解,不認同這些支援的好處,市民怎會支持?香港政府話就話推動創新科技,如果不提出藍圖計劃,說服社會,現在可見,就是事倍功半。

英國推動金融科技其他的建議,包括注意風險管理、加強大學教育的相關內容、發展區域合作網絡,還有兩點很值得我們香港反思的。英國政府清楚地說,自己政府必須利用自己的購買力,去協助產業發展和推出創新的產品和服務;相反,香港政府從來沒有這樣說過,從來沒有這樣做過。最後,英國政府話,一定要向外推廣自己的產品去海外市場。顯然,我們香港發展金融科技,不能只當是發展一些有助本地金融業的方案,必須要當作為自己一個產業來發展。

無論是發展金融科技,還是整個創新科技產業,都應該如此。


主席,希望本屆政府咁高調話搞創新及科技發展,唔只係高層掉錢出黎當政績嘅小圈子係度『圍威喂』,而係認真研究出方向和真正帶來改變的方法。只係資助、做一啲噱頭,搞下嘉年華咁樣係幫唔到業界,要深入改變到不同政策局同部門做事方式和思維,設計同規劃未來政策或者措施融入創新和科技的思維,保持香港公平、透明、自由和開放的文化,以及國際化同埋鄰近大陸市場的優勢。否則,我恐怕有一個科技局,都未能力達到預期的效果。

我謹此陳辭,多謝主席。

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Letter to Hong Kong, April 12, 2015

Letter to Hong Kong, April 12, 2015

People often say, “life imitates art.” The saga of ATV has certainly turned out to stranger than fiction, and the soap opera simply refuses to bring itself to an end. The dramatic stunt pulled by the investor of ATV, Mr Wang Jing, prior to the supposed deadline imposed by the government for ATV to restructure and find a new buyer, with one potential buyer Mr Ricky Wong denying he had ever come to terms with Mr Wang, and another suitor Mr Kelvin Wu coming in only too late to reverse the government’s decision not to renew ATV’s free-to-air TV broadcast license.

I believe there are still many questions that remain unanswered and must be pursued. First, why did the Chief Executive in Council wait for almost half a year beyond the original date of announcing the decision to renew or not, being November of 2014, as the government had assured Legco repeatedly from 2013 to early 2014. Second, did ATV further violate broadcasting rules by falsely announcing a deal with Mr Ricky Wong on the eve of the license renewal decision by Exco, as well as violating securities rules at the same time by causing fluctuations in the stock price of Mr Ricky Wong’s company, HKTV.

But these questions of finding who were responsible for any wrongdoings pale in comparison in importance to the issues of looking forward to the post-ATV arrangement of Hong Kong’s TV broadcasting industry landscape and the related licenses, spectrum and facilities, and most of all, choice of programming and access to information by all our citizens.

While on April 1, the government simultaneously announced the denial of ATV’s free-to-air TV license renewal application, it also granted a license to Hong Kong Television Entertainment, HKTVE, part of the PCCW group, with its free TV services to be provided to most of Hong Kong’s home in about a year’s time, but only via fiber network to the home. While the government may want to cause an illusion that HKTVE can be a replacement for ATV, in fact it is not, not only because ATV may cease to be able to provide services before its license expiration on April 1 2015, HKTVE can in reality only provide free digital TV services to the homes and premises reached by its network, being 65 percent of Hong Kong’s households in the first year, to only 80 percent in even the sixth year. This is clearly a far cry from ATV’s 100 percent free-to-air coverage.

And what about the approximately 20 percent of our households, that are still only able to receive analog signals, using older TV sets and without digital terrestrial television decoders? The government says our public broadcasting station, RTHK, will take up the slack, from the time ATV’s broadcasting ends to 2020, when our analog TV services will be switched off. The problem is, RTHK, according to its management and staff, are totally unprepared and under-equipped to provide analog TV services, and indeed under-staffed and under-financed even in its current state in providing its present three free digital TV channels. And, RTHK would not be able to provide entertainment programs and more importantly, newscast programs at the same level with a commercial station like even a very weak ATV.

But why is the government so sure that these analog spectrum would be unappealing and worthless to the commercial TV market from 2016 to 2020, and maybe even later than that, should there be yet another delay in switching off the analog services for good? Apparently it did not consult publicly on this decision before deciding to turn the analog spectrum over to RTHK, and already several industry experts and academics have questioned this move, and some industry players have indicated interests in these spectrum.

Furthermore, one would expect the government to announce the accepting of new free-to-air TV broadcast license applications, at the same time when it refused ATV’s renewal application. But it didn’t! All it did was setting up an inter-departmental working group to figure out what to do, with no commitment as to how long a decision would have to be taken and in what direction.

What baffles me the most was that, as the Communications Authority had expressed that it made its recommendation to the Chief Executive in Council back in September not to renew ATV’s license, in this more than half a year’s time, why did it not commence its planning as to how to handle both the digital and analog spectrum that ATV had been holding, as well as how to handle the turning over of its facilities and broadcast network?

Was the Communications Authority too accustomed to our Chief Executive making his “one man’s decision” and overturning the CA’s recommendation, as he did when denying HKTV’s free TV broadcast license application, so it was a big surprise to the CA when the Chief Executive indeed agreed not to renew ATV’s license this time? No matter what, there are still a hundred ways to handle a right decision in the wrong way, and the ATV saga is demonstrating to us exactly how.

While the termination of a free TV broadcast license in Hong Kong is something that has never happened before, there is no excuse not to be well prepared and give the industry and the public a clear message about what will happen next. Now we have none of that.

What we have now is an uncertainty as to how and when the digital spectrum ATV holds will be open for application, and a dubious decision to abruptly turn over the analog spectrum to an apparently unwilling and definitely unprepared RTHK, without consulting the industry and the public, leaving the future of Hong Kong’s television industry development, already very behind in the region for an advanced city like us, in further limbo.

What is certain is that our 7 million television viewers will have less choice in the coming years of programming surely in quantity, and likely in quality too as there’ll be less competition. Even advertisers are facing an unknown and potentially lengthy period of a choice of only one station to advertise on free-to-air TV broadcast service.

So why did it end up like this? More than a decade ago when the government announced that it will open up the free TV market, we were expecting more competition, more choices and better utilization of our facilities and resources, including our spectrum and fiber networks, to elevate the creative sector as a whole. But the government and in particular this administration abruptly changed the course of this development by overturning these policies, first by not granting a license to the most eager content developer of all potential players, HKTV, and then by prolonging an eventually inevitable decision not to renew the license of a troubled ATV that is beyond any rescue. And now, further indecision about the reallocation of ATV’s digital spectrum, and the allocation of its analog spectrum to an RTHK that certainly would not add any more diversity to what’s already available to Hong Kong’s viewers.

Why is the government doing all these? No wonder many of us suspect that there must be a political motive behind, in limiting the availability of the channels of expression of opinions, both via news and public affairs programs as well as even entertainment programming, in the coming several critical years when we will face critical municipal, legislative and chief executive elections.

What do we make of all this when the government proclaims that it wants to encourage Hong Kong’s innovation and creative industries? Without genuine freedom, openness, transparency and choice, all such talks are hot air. Indeed, our TV spectrum is a most precious asset that belongs to everyone in Hong Kong, and the administration cannot rob us of our freedom to choose.

(Broadcast on RTHK Radio 3, 9:15am, April 12, 2015)

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