Bank of China

Care fund is one charity too many for HK

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am

It comes as little surprise that the government has only been able to collect a modest amount in corporate donations for its proposed Community Care Fund. In fact, there was little reason for this fund to be set up in the first place.

With the 40-year-old Community Chest already a known success, it is a waste of time and money to set up this new charity.

Established in 1968, the Community Chest is the city's largest charity organisation, raising HK$278.3 million for the financial year to the end of March of last year. It has helped 1.7 million people through its 140 welfare agencies - from the young to the old.

Of this, the corporate sector paid HK$109 million, including direct corporate donations. Newly listed companies are also regular donors, giving money in order to choose a favoured stock code. Bank of China Hong Kong, HSBC, Hang Seng Bank, Cheung Kong Holdings and the MTR Corporation are among the top donors.

The beauty of the Community Chest is that humble individuals can help, with the Walks for Millions raising HK$23.78 million in a recent year.

Besides the Community Chest, there are some specific charities, such as Orbis, helping the needy in the city with eye operations.

With the Community Chest and many other privately run charity organisations having such a good track record, it makes no sense for the government to set up this new fund, which is competing for donations with existing charities.

The Community Care Fund, announced in Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy address last October, aimed to collect HK$10 billion to help the poor who have not yet been covered by existing relief measures.

This is exactly why the new fund will not work. As the new fund does not want to overlap with government welfare or what the Community Chest or other charities have been doing, it is hard to find a big role for it to play.

The government has mulled over using the fund to pay those who are not qualified to receive the HK$6,000 government payout to permanent residents of Hong Kong.

It recently also announced seven schemes, including paying up to HK$3,000 each to help children from poor families to travel.

Travel! This seems a strange way of alleviating poverty and may well explain why few businessmen or tycoons are willing to donate to the fund. It is really hard to convince the public that the donations will be put to good use.

In the policy address, the government said it wanted to raise HK$5 billion from private sector donations, and that taxpayers would pay the rest.

But last Friday, the government announced that so far it had only collected HK$680 million, and that HK$1.12 billion had been promised in installments over the next three years. This is HK$3.2 billion below the fund target.

This is not a surprise - the local business sector and individuals are willing to help earthquake victims in Japan and China, as well as those with disabilities, illnesses or living in poverty.

But donating money to help children travel? No way. If the children want to travel, they should study hard and work hard, and then they can enjoy travelling when they grow up.

The government last Friday sought approval from lawmakers to use taxpayers' money to inject HK$5 billion into the fund. But since lawmakers have raised many questions, the debate will continue this Friday when they are expected to cast a vote.

I often think our lawmakers ask too many boring questions, but this time, I think they have done their duty in defending the interests of taxpayers. It is outrageous to spend taxpayers' money to help children to travel.

Again, when we already have the Community Chest and many charity organisations in town, why should taxpayers have to finance this Community Care Fund?