Cash for the elderly on Henry Tang's agenda
Gary Cheung, Ng Kang-chung and Colleen Lee
Chief executive hopeful Henry Tang Ying-yen proposes granting eligible elderly people a monthly retirement subsidy of HK$3,000 in his long-awaited election platform, which was released yesterday.
The allowance would go to people aged 65 and over with a monthly income below HK$3,700 and assets of less than HK$186,000. Tang said it would cost HK$6.6 billion a year.
'Even if one in four people reach 65 in 2030, the annual cost incurred would be HK$20 billion. I'm confident that the government would find it affordable,' he said.
Under his scheme, which would benefit nearly 800,000 people, eligible recipients would continue to receive the old-age allowance, or 'fruit money', of HK$1,090.
The former chief secretary said elderly people who received Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) could swap to the new subsidy. A person aged 60 or above receives a basic CSSA allowance of HK$2,820 a month and is eligible for housing and transport subsidies.
Tang's rival Leung Chun-ying had earlier proposed that elderly people who passed a means test be paid a higher old-age allowance.
Chan Yuen-han, vice-president of the Federation of Trade Unions, said Tang had failed to come up with a comprehensive policy on the elderly and retirement protection.
'It is not good enough to just give HK$3,000 to eligible senior citizens. A government needs to have a comprehensive policy, not one or two eye-catching measures.'
Welfare sector lawmaker Peter Cheung Kwok-che agreed, adding: 'The next government should seriously consider launching a universal pension scheme.'
The proposal was part of Tang's platform on welfare and the economy which he unveiled yesterday. He also suggested voluntary Mandatory Provident Fund contribution accounts for employees managed by the Monetary Authority, which would not charge management fees.
In a bid to entice the middle class, Tang proposed a special committee on issues affecting the sector, chaired by the chief secretary. He suggested measures such as tax deductions for medical insurance.
Another committee would study measures to support low-income Hongkongers.
Asked if he thought Tang's platforms had been released too late, Leung said: 'We are only six weeks away from election day [on March 25]. We haven't seen all the election platforms from Mr Henry Tang yet. I started [to unveil my proposed platforms] two months ago so that the Hong Kong community could provide feedback.'
Tang will release his platform on housing and education today.
How they compare
HK$3,000 monthly subsidy to eligible people over the age of 65;
Explore possibility of another convention and exhibition centre in West Kowloon;
Strive to create 100,000 jobs over five years in six industries in which city has advantages;
Set up committee to assess issues facing middle-class families;
On top of employees' MPF accounts, set up voluntary contribution accounts;
Set up committee to work out anti-poverty policies;
Allow retirees living in Guangdong to receive old-age allowances and look at expanding it to Fujian or other provinces.
Set up financial development bureau to promote city as an international financial centre;
Commission to study poverty problems and find solutions;
Monthly old-age subsidy for eligible on top of the existing allowance;
Improve operations of MPF scheme, including cutting fees;
Policies to create a family-friendly society, including flexible working hours and working from home.