Government handouts at China holiday resort spark debate

Some argue that the millions of yuan would be better spent on public services

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 4:46am

The Sanya city authorities' plan to give residents a bigger half-year subsidy of 360 yuan (HK$453 yuan) has triggered fierce debate online and in the media about whether it is the best use of public funds.

Officials of the popular tourist destination in Hainan on Monday announced the plan to give the six-month subsidy to help offset rising prices. About 620,000 residents - including migrant workers and those with local household registration (hukou) - are entitled to it.

The subsidy scheme was introduced in Sanya in the second half of 2010, and has been granted for the first six months each year since. The first round of handouts was 180 yuan per resident, and has risen 10 to 20 per cent annually.

This year's subsidy will cost the city 220 million yuan - which would barely dent Sanya's coffers. Last year, its tourism income alone was 23.3 billion yuan, and its total GDP was 37.3 billion.

"The subsidy is positive as it shows the government is concerned about the general people's livelihood," The Beijing News said in a commentary. "It might not be the best solution, but it is certainly not a bad one."

Internet users said it should be spent on public services.

"It won't have any effect besides further pushing up prices. It would make more sense to put the money [in] … health care and education," one microblogger wrote.

The city's benchmark consumer price index rose 3. 8 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter. The figure is 0.5 percentage points higher than for Hainan province and 1.5 percentage points higher than the figure for the whole country.