Old age allowance
Commonly known as "fruit money", the old age allowance is a monthly cash subsidy the Hong Kong government pays to senior citizens aged 65-69 with low incomes, and all elderly citizens aged 70 and over. The Leung Chun-ying administration in 2012 proposed to introduce a new means-tested subsidy called the Old Age Living Allowance, which provides HK$2,200 per month for the needy only.
Stop blocking old-age payments
The government's proposed Old Age Living Allowance has still not been approved because some lawmakers on the finance committee demand the scrapping of a means test.
This test would include an asset assessment to determine if an elderly person is eligible for the allowance. I fully understand the rationale of those pursuing the abandonment of the asset assessment requirement.
However, if, as they are proposing, all elderly Hong Kong citizens over the age of 70 could get the allowance - whatever their asset level - where do they propose the government find the financial resources to pay for such a scheme?
If the law as they envisage was passed, to fund it, officials would have to take money designated for other purposes or find a way to increase tax revenue. And if this happened, would other people in society suffer as a consequence?
Because of the present impasse, we have a situation whereby more than 400,000 elderly citizens, who are in desperate need of the proposed monthly allowance of HK$2,200, have to wait indefinitely pending a resolution.
The motivation of those councillors standing firm in their opposition to the means test seems clear - to earn political credit from those who support them.
However, I would ask them to look at this issue in an honest way and accept that all governments have only limited resources. In any society, schemes like this old age allowance proposal must be designed in such a way that a balance is struck, bearing in mind all relevant interested parties.
The legislative councillors who have opposed the asset assessment process need to accept that, in the interests of the 400,000-plus elderly who are in desperate need, it is time to move forward. They should look to their conscience before putting forward any further amendments that stop this proposal from being passed into law as soon as possible.
Fung Wai-yan, Tseung Kwan O