Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Social innovation alleviates poverty

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

The Fred Hollows Foundation envisions a world in which no person is needlessly blind. By building low-cost intraocular lens factories in Nepal and Eritrea, the late Professor Hollows had reduced the cost of these miracle lenses from $800 to just $40, pioneering modern cataract surgery and providing access to affordable eye care for people all over the world.


Today, the Foundation works in over 25 countries. For as little as $150, the Foundation performs sight-saving surgery, literally transforming people's lives overnight. It is indeed a story of both innovation and inspiration, for the improvement of people's livelihood.


Innovative social solutions

Talking about innovation, we need innovative ways to keep this city growing as a successful community and to bring opportunities to those in need. In this regard, the Hong Kong SAR Government has launched the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Development Fund in 2013 to facilitate cross-sector collaboration and sharing of knowledge and experience to nurture social innovation and entrepreneurship for poverty alleviation.


To boost the city's competitiveness, the Government is pursuing the establishment of an Innovation & Technology Bureau. We have the vision to make use of innovation not only for boosting economic growth, but also for bringing about positive impacts to people's lives and taking care of people's needs.


Hong Kong has always been an attractive place for overseas business thanks to our geographical location, our close economic ties with the Mainland of China, the rule of law, an independent judiciary and the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Basic Law. According to a joint survey conducted by InvestHK and the Census & Statistics Department released just last Monday (October 26), the number of business operations in Hong Kong with parent companies overseas and in the Mainland climbed to a new record of 7,904 in 2015, representing an increase of 4.2% over the past year.


Perfect regional hub

Similarly, Hong Kong is a perfect place for international NGOs such as the Fred Hollows Foundation to establish regional offices. Geographically, with a central location in Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong is recognised as a springboard to and from Asia. We are close and uniquely connected to the Mainland of China.


Socially, we are a dynamic city with a strong culture of philanthropy and charitable giving that encourages Hong Kong people to give back to the world as global citizens. And on this score, I have a personal experience to share. Apart from being a civil servant, about 12 years ago in 2003 when Hong Kong was struck by SARS, this major communicable disease of which a total of 299 Hong Kong people died, together with three female senior civil servants, we established a We Care Education Fund to provide long-term education needs to children whose parents died of SARS.


Within a few months, without any charity events, not even a reception like this, we managed to raise $80 million for these children. I am happy to say that up to this day, we are still taking care of some of these kids. So we have a strong business segment with a growing awareness about their corporate social responsibilities. I am confident that the Fred Hollows Foundation will have a fruitful outcome in Hong Kong because you have an extremely good cause, raising considerable funds and reaching an increasing number of the needlessly blind in Asia, especially in the Mainland of China, where 20% of the world's blind live.


Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the official launch of the Fred Hollows Foundation Hong Kong.

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