Policy address thanks carries rider
The Legislative Council yesterday passed a motion of thanks on the policy address, amended to include a call on the government to increase the old-age allowance and expressing 'deep disappointment' at the 'meagre resources' devoted to the health of the elderly.
It is the first time the legislature has passed a motion of thanks for the policy address since 2001, when Tung Chee-hwa was chief executive.
The amendment calls for the standard old-age allowance to be lifted to HK$900 a month and the higher allowance for over-70s to be raised to HK$1,000. It was passed unopposed.
Other amendments urging half-price public medical services, subsidised dental services and free flu vaccines for pensioners, and the creation of a committee to tackle poverty, were also passed unopposed.
The motion thanked the chief executive for his policy address, but expressed 'deep disappointment' about policies directed at the elderly and urged more measures to help the poor and aged.
More toughly worded amendments proposed by the League of Social Democrats' Albert Chan Wai-yip and unionist Leung Yiu-chung were voted down.
Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun welcomed the passing of the motion. He said it had set a precedent and hoped that a similar consensus could be found on future motions. He denied his party's support for an increase in old-age allowances was an election tactic, saying it was the outcome of a re-evaluation of the government's financial health.
Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said the administration would take note of the lawmakers' views.
During the debate, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah reiterated the government expects this year's budget surplus to exceed its forecast of HK$25 billion and reach HK$50 billion.
However, he warned against complacency, noting the poor performance of the US property market.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, of the medical sector, said that, although he was in favour of the motion, he abstained because legislators rejected an amendment The Frontier's Emily Lau Wai-hing had tabled.
Her amendment urging the government 'to convince those who are against the implementation of universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive and legislature in 2012' to reverse their stance.
Lawmakers on Exco also abstained. The motion had the support of 22 functional constituency legislators and 17 directly elected members.