Mark handover with one-off sub to old folk

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 1997, 12:00am

I write to make a bold suggestion - admittedly at the 11th hour. (Perhaps inevitably, pre-occupation with 'politics' has waylaid us all).

The handover, Hong Kong's re-unification with China, is a time to celebrate. In so doing it is also a time - the moment - for Hong Kong's old 'belongers' to recall the achievements of earlier decades: to celebrate Hong Kong's remarkable transformation from postwar backwater to world metropolis - a transformation that rests solidly on their determination, spirit and shoulders.

Today Hong Kong has staggering wealth. Some of those who 'built' Hong Kong through the postwar hardship have prospered. Many others, through no fault of their own, have not; some of these people still battle through life, as even casual observations in our streets show. Sadly, inevitably, many of these people will be financially unable to mark the handover in fitting style - while around them others will be spending lavishly.

What better way to usher in the Special Administrative Region than by showing gratitude to those whose labours made the place we so benefit from today? In particular, by acting generously to the roughly 103,000 elderly people who receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). CSSA elderly incomes are about $3,000 per month.

The public celebrations to mark the handover have been estimated at about $100 million; and Hong Kong is entering its new era with awesome financial reserves. To mark the handover with a one-off ex gratia payment of (say) $500 to all elderly CSSA recipients surely would be right and proper. This would require some $50 million (about one sixth of the elderly CSSA monthly pay-out). No doubt the proposal would face budgetary hoops and hurdles. Surely, in this wealthy place, these could be overcome.

I urge the Chief Executive-designate and his administration to announce this (or something similar) payment as soon as possible after taking office. This would be a small token of appreciation for those stoic people who, under bamboo poles, carried Hong Kong forward to our today.



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