Government doing all it can to help poor citizens in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 2:45am

I refer to Tong Oichu's letter ("Little progress in fight against poverty", September 4), which said that the government has failed to introduce effective measures to alleviate the poverty problem.

The Hong Kong SAR government is firmly committed to improving the well-being of the underprivileged in Hong Kong. Our actions speak for themselves.

Shortly after the swearing-in of the current government, the chief executive announced in July last year his plan to introduce the Old Age Living Allowance of HK$2,200 per month to provide more financial support for elderly people in need. Subsequently, the allowance was introduced in April this year to supplement the living expenses of elderly persons in financial need on a means-tested basis. It is estimated that more than 400,000 elderly persons will receive the allowance in the first year of implementation. As at the end of August, over 388,000 elderly persons have benefited from the allowance.

At the same time, we should empower and enhance support for the working poor to help them stay in jobs and improve their livelihood.

Earlier this year, the government agreed to increase the statutory minimum wage to HK$30 per hour with effect from May.

The average monthly earnings of the lowest decile of full-time employees in the period between April and June 2013 went up by 7.6 per cent year-on-year (or 2.8 per cent in real terms).

We also enhanced the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme with effect from this January by providing the option of individual application as an alternative to household application and relaxed the income and asset limit in parallel. So far, more than 13,700 individual applications have been received.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Poverty is currently working hard to finalise a poverty line. Its six task forces are reviewing existing measures and considering what more should be done to help the poor. The injection of HK$15 billion into the Community Care Fund in June and the HK$500 million social innovation and entrepreneurship development fund to be set up shortly are also among the initiatives to tackle poverty.

The government will continue to do all that we can to help the poor improve their well-being.

Nick Au Yeung, assistant director (media), chief executive's office