Government has clearly failed the poorest families in this affluent city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2011, 12:00am

The Oxfam World Wealth Report 2011 findings on poverty in Hong Kong came as a shock to most people and served as a wake-up call for the city's government.

The report said that there are 144,400 poor families with children aged 15 and below in Hong Kong, and one in six such families frequently goes hungry due to lack of money. Statistics show that in 2009, there were one million people living under the poverty line, of which 340,000 were children. These sagas sound like tall stories for an affluent society like Hong Kong.

Our government is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects and dishing out HK$3.7 billion to all permanent residents whether they need it or not. How much do poor people with a voice count on the economic scales of the administration? The Oxfam findings are totally unacceptable in a city that ranks fifth among well-to-do economies in the world.

Your editorial ('Knee-jerk fixes no solution to poverty', August 19) hit the nail on the head. The Commission on Poverty set up in 2005 emphasised more employment opportunities for youth before it folded in 2007. The social enterprises schemes passed on to the Labour and Welfare Bureau have not eased poverty effectively.

Similarly, the Community Care Fund launched last year and into which HK$730 million was injected for 2011-12, has 10 major items on its agenda. But they only cover areas outside the existing social security network, that is, the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme that caters to people's basic needs. Since the Oxfam study showed that the poor families have only half the median income of HK$9,500, the CSSA should be thoroughly reviewed to see where it has gone wrong.

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang urged the city's government to seek 'practical and active' solutions to improve people's livelihood. One such effort is the Guangdong authorities' war on poverty, featuring the dispatch of 11,000 officials to villages in poor areas for up to three years to drive poverty out of the province. Another suggestion is to expand the food banks currently run by five non-governmental organisations under the sponsorship of the Social Welfare Department.

Poverty is not a crime. But for an affluent society to leave poverty unresolved is to breed social unrest. It is incumbent upon the city's government to seriously tackle the poverty that has sounded a death toll for our caring society.

Patsy Leung, Mid-Levels

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