Commission can fight poverty with long-term strategy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 2:13am


Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has decided to revive the Commission on Poverty which was scrapped in 2007.

I completely agree with Oxfam Hong Kong, which has suggested that the commission should have a poverty line defined and rethink poverty reduction targets, as these are realistic ways to help the needy.

Up till now, the government has not devised a poverty threshold. But if it wants to understand the extent of the problem here, it must have a poverty line and its measurement must be accurate. Factors it must look at are, for example, rental income, real estate and share investments. It needs accurate statistics so that those who are most in need will get help with medical welfare, education and social services. It is important that there is an efficient allocation of resources.

The problem is compounded here because the gap between rich and poor is becoming wider. This is happening in spite of the minimum wage being introduced in Hong Kong last year.

The problem is exacerbated because of the undefined poverty threshold.

I know of four governments which have adopted poverty alleviation strategies - Ireland, Canada, the mainland and the Philippines.

After adopting its policy, Canada saw the numbers of those living in poverty decrease by more than one million between 1993 and 2003.

If the Commission on Poverty defines a poverty threshold, then I believe that Hong Kong's poverty problems can be alleviated in the long term.

Apart from defining the poverty threshold, the commission should also rethink Hong Kong's priorities when it comes to alleviating the plight of the poorest in society.

A committee under the previous commission recommended a number of measures, but these were fragmented and few of them were adopted by the government.

What is needed is for the new commission to come up with a comprehensive strategy to combat the problem of poverty in the city.

It is only by having such comprehensive measures that the fight against poverty can be effective.

As I said, the main role of the commission should be to rethink Hong Kong's priorities so that it can alleviate the plight of the poorest in our society. I would like to see a situation, eventually, where Hong Kong can be accurately described as a poverty-free city.

Fung Tsz-ying, Sha Tin