Pan-democrats plan joint push over old-age allowance

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am

Pan-democrats are planning a united effort to press for an increase in the old-age allowance, a request denied in the budget.

Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said pan-democratic legislators would meet today to discuss how to fight for lifting the allowance to HK$1,000 a month.

The camp is planning to seek the backing of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party, which have also voiced support for a raise, and ask for a meeting with Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Mr Tsang yesterday faced criticism for not raising the allowance.

During a radio phone-in, held by three radio stations, a caller challenged him: 'Why does fruit money need further study? It had already been agreed by Legco,' said a caller, challenging his measure.

Calling his rejection of the move a brave decision, Mr Tsang said the so-called consensus of increasing 'fruit money' was not sustainable, given the growing ageing population.

'We would need to either increase taxes or reallocate resources from other areas such as education, social welfare or security,' he said.

Mr Tsang declined to say whether the allowance would be raised when the old-age allowance system was reviewed at the end of the year.

He also denied that the budget was short-sighted, saying most one-off measures were 'distributing bonuses' and not increasing income, which might generate a heavy burden in the coming years.

Executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong said that instead of only considering the amount, the government should conduct a comprehensive study on the old-age allowance system, reviewing how resources could be allocated to people most in need.