In his final policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen pushed forward major initiatives.
They include one-off rent waivers, extra elderly allowance, and an improved food bank to help low-income earners to tackle inflation. The government will pay two months' rent for around 700,000 public housing tenants. People under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, Social Security Allowance, and Disability Allowance schemes will receive a double allowance.
The government is expected to spend a total of HK$3.8 billion on the two one-off measures.
Local food prices have surged recently. Tsang said the government would improve the Social Welfare Department's food banks that offer short-term food assistance services for the jobless, low-income families and new immigrants.
Tsang plans to use HK$100 million to increase food variety and provide fresh produce.
Nelson Chow Wing-sun, from the University of Hong Kong's Social Work Department, thinks the new policies will help provide temporary relief for the poor. Yet he stressed they would do little to solve long-term poverty problems.
'The income gap is widening because our economy focuses too heavily on its finance and property industries, which employ most high-income earners,' Chow said.
'That's where the real social discontent comes from.'
Chow suggested that Tsang create new jobs for low-income earners, boost key industries and improve social mobility.
Mo Pak-hung, from Hong Kong Baptist University's Economics Department, said the rent waiver might cause slight inflation in daily necessities. 'With more money saved, residents of public housing will have greater purchasing power,' Mo said.
'They will likely spend more on consumer goods and food.'
The move's impact on society will need to be observed closely, he said.