Miriam Lau hits out at 'shameful' wealth gap

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 August, 2010, 12:00am

The disparity between the rich and the poor in Hong Kong is disgraceful, the chairwoman of the Liberal Party has said, demanding the government tackle the problem in the forthcoming policy address.

Miriam Lau Kin-yee said on RTHK yesterday that the city was wealthy, with the number of people owning US$1 million in moveable assets up from 37,000 in 2008 to 75,000 last year.

'With such affluence, it is shameful that we still have over 180,000 low-income families with a monthly household income below HK$4,000, and there are many who still live in cage homes or make a living picking up cardboard boxes from the streets,' she said. The city's gross domestic product per capita stood at more than US$30,000, she said.

The chief executive will deliver his annual policy address on October 13. Lau said overcoming poverty should take priority over other matters, such as economic development and housing.

Lau said her party believed that providing education and training for the younger generation to make them more economically competitive was vital to reducing poverty.

'We should promote economic growth to create more job opportunities for our workforce to enable them to move up the social ladder. However, this approach does not provide immediate relief. There are calls for initiatives and measures to immediately assist disadvantaged groups,' she said.

The Liberals agreed that a minimum wage, due to be introduced at the beginning of next year, provided some protection but it would not reduce poverty. 'In certain ways, it may even aggravate poverty' because it may result in depriving people of jobs.

'This ... is likely to strike at the most disadvantaged groups - those with lower skills, lower education and the elderly,' Lau said.

The party said training and retraining programmes must be offered to those made jobless to enable them to remain within the workforce.