Members upset over poverty commission

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 July, 2006, 12:00am

Grass-roots representatives say they are finding it hard to use the Commission on Poverty as a platform to help the poor.

Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, said the commission pushed ahead with its proposals for parental training and a savings scheme despite members' objections.

Lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee, who is a commission member, said he was unclear about who raised ideas and how decisions were made.

There is also dissatisfaction about the way the commission positions itself - as a body to identify and fill gaps left by government bureaus rather than having a mandate to direct bureaus to change policy.

Mr Fung said: 'If the bureaus were doing their jobs well, we wouldn't be seeing so many alarming figures and there wouldn't have been a need for the establishment of the poverty commission.'

Both Mr Fung and Mr Ho complained about the lack of discussion and attempts to form consensus at commission meetings.

Mr Fung said there was no follow-up for anything with which the government disagreed.

Mr Ho said: 'We keep pointing out the problems and giving our suggestions. They just jot them down and continue with their own plans. Members have no power, and we can't object to their plans.'

Commission secretary Cherry Tse Ling Kit-ching, stressed its role was to identify service gaps. Although it had no authority to direct bureaus to change their policies, it could make recommendations on how services could be improved, she said.

'Measures on poverty alleviation, such as housing, welfare, health care and education are all being looked after by various policy bureaus. We certainly can't do better than them as they are specialists. If we look at the present problems, we are duplicating the bureaus' jobs,' she said.

Defending the conduct at meetings, Mrs Tse said from time to time attempts were made to achieve consensus, but a tight schedule meant the views of every member could not be examined.

In response to Mr Ho's complaint that briefings by officials were too long, Mrs Tse said explanations of government services were essential because some members were not familiar with social welfare issues.