PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2009, 12:00am

Most vulnerable in society let down by budget

In his budget the financial secretary pledged that he would be 'responsive to social problems' and that 'we need to help those with new and added burdens so that they can overcome the present difficulties'.

Yet, the recurrent allocation for social welfare decreased in real terms by negative 6.4 per cent, over the original estimates of 2008-09. It is the only policy area that has contracted in recurrent expenditures. This has never happened, even during the hardest of times.

Social welfare exists to help solve and prevent social problems. It helps families that have to care for the frail elderly, the disabled and the infirm.

The additions the government has given to welfare fall short of relieving the plight of these people.

We have 650 children and young people waiting for residential care and foster care, because of family and behavioural problems. Voluntary neighbourhood support child-care projects are good but cannot help them.

There are more than 6,000 bedridden elderly who have been waiting for more than 40 months for a place in nursing homes. They have hoped that their waiting time could be shortened or their families could have some relief with support from temporary home care workers. The HK$19 million that the government has given to help persons with disabilities can only help 30 out of the 3,203 waiting for day training/vocational service, 156 out of the 6,189 waiting for residential homes, 54 out of the 2,924 young disabled pre-school children waiting for professional rehabilitation training.

Welfare is not just an expenditure item. It is about protecting lives, the weakest in our community and an essential social investment. Families that are helped can become productive labour and the provision of care services will provide jobs that suit low-skilled and less-educated people. The welfare sector has worked well with the government to help and empower these vulnerable people. We have also worked hard to mobilise the community to share the responsibilities by donating to these welfare causes. Non-government-funded services are suffering and are at risk of closure in this difficult fund-raising environment.

We are disappointed with the budget, yet we are more concerned with the government's decreasing and lack of long term commitment to social welfare.

A 'moral society' is the kind that gives hope and a better tomorrow to all, including the weakest and most vulnerable.

Christine Fang Meng-sang, chief executive, Hong Kong Council of Social Service

Give measures a chance to work

Some analysts have said that the stimulus package introduced by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah in his budget was not effective enough.

They argue that the salaries tax rebates may encourage people to save money rather than spend it. They say that the internship programme will not help graduates get good jobs, while the forecast of 2 to 3 per cent of economic contraction may be too optimistic.

I accept that graduates deserve to get better jobs. And I realise that in the present economic climate people will want to save rather than spend.

However, I think we should keep faith with the budget.

Instead of being so critical we should be focusing on how to make the policies outlined in the budget work.

It is difficult to make precise predictions about the future.

Confidence in the market is closely related to market growth.

If officials come out with financial forecasts that are too pessimistic then the market will be adversely affected.

What society needs are more constructive ideas to revive the market and restore consumers' confidence.

Tom Li, Tin Shui Wai

A taste of the wrong medicine

Hong Kong residents were underwhelmed by the financial secretary's budget.

Hongkongers need no convincing that we are in a deflationary downdraft.

Yet, it appears that the budget is more deflationary than inflationary, which is exactly the wrong medicine.

We have been taught in school that when the economy is down, the government can help by increasing spending, reducing taxes and redeeming government bonds, or at least stop issuing them.

The budget does the opposite.

Citizens can only conclude that the economy is hot, but we don't know; or that basic economic principles are dead; or the financial secretary is playing mind games with bewildered citizens.

Peter Fung, Central

Government not squeaky clean

The three League of Social Democrats lawmakers achieved nothing except to distract the public from the gloomy economic prospects for a couple of minutes ('Half the legislature condemns latest chamber antics from League', February 26).

They fully deserve to be criticised for their complete disregard for the code of conduct in the Legco meeting.

However, before we let the government join the chorus of disapproval, we should reflect upon whether the present administration has a healthy respect for the rules. Our civil service has inherited a strong emphasis on following established procedures, but I am not sure that this tradition has flourished under Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

Take, for example, the [alleged] irregularities surrounding the appointment of deputy ministers and political assistants, as well as the unaccountable delays in the general consultations for public-service broadcasting and constitutional reform.

While we condemn the 'antics' of the ultimately irrelevant League of Social Democrats, let us not forget to take a step back to appreciate the 'tactics' of Mr Tsang.

Eric S. K. Mok, Pok Fu Lam

Meaning lost

Alex Lo's use of rhetoric in his Observer column to attract readers is irresponsible ('Reminders of the white man's past terrors', February 26). Racially loaded language such as this causes more problems than it solves, while his understanding of colonialism is superficial and selective.

If Lo took the time to understand the nature of empire and imperialism he would soon see that many cultures from all walks of life have brought 'bloodbath, looting and sometimes wholesale destruction', under divide-and-conquer strategies.

While I appreciate the underlying point he makes, the meaning is lost when presented in such a light.

Robert Hanlon, Kowloon Tong

Disgraceful act

It is illegal to buy or trade stolen treasures. But western countries seem to have adopted double standards.

Take, for example, the two bronze heads from China's Summer Palace.

They were taken away when the British and French armies plundered the palace in 1860.

This was a disgraceful act. These are stolen treasures and they should be returned to China as soon as possible.

If a national treasure of France was taken from the Louvre in Paris and auctioned abroad, how would the French feel?

Michael Leung Chung-hong, Sham Shui Po