70pc grab HK$6,000 handout and forgo bonus
More than two-thirds of people eligible for the government's HK$6,000 cash handout have opted to take the money now rather than wait and collect a HK$200 bonus. But this is less than the expected number, leaving the Treasury with a surplus in its coffers for the year.
Some 4.2 million residents - about 70 per cent of those eligible - signed up for the handout, and about 2.5 million had already received the money via bank transfer, Professor Chan Ka-keung, secretary for the Treasury, said yesterday.
'The HK$6,000 scheme's progress is very smooth,' he said. 'We estimate that those who have signed up for a bank transfer should receive the money by December.'
Chan said about 100,000 people received the handout every day.
Those who wait until April 1 to submit their forms will receive the extra HK$200, and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said the number applying for the immediate handout was lower than expected.
The government originally estimated it would spend HK$37 billion on handouts for 6.1 million permanent residents aged 18 or older before March 31.
It budgeted on about 20 per cent of the people waiting until April to claim the money.
'Now [the latter] figure is higher than our estimation. That means this year's expenditure is lower than the estimation in our budget,' he said.
Legislator Paul Chan Mo-po, of the accountancy functional constituency, said the HK$200 was not attractive in high inflation. However, based on compound interest, a depositor who put HK$6,000 in a savings account at the record low rate of 0.001 per cent a year would have to wait 3,279 years to earn HK$200.
Sze Lai-shan, of the Society for Community Organisation, said some new immigrants had also received the HK$6,000 handout through the Community Care Fund.