Old age allowance

Old people's welfare a top priority, Carrie Lam says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 11:22am

Retirement protection will receive attention from top echelons of the government under a new working group to be chaired by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, she said yesterday.

The idea appears to be an attempt to win over critics of a revised means test proposed for an increased living allowance for the elderly. Lam said the high-level working group would be set up under a soon-to-be-formed Poverty Commission, which is expected to define a poverty line for Hong Kong.

"The government will spare no effort in working on [improving] social security and retirement protection," she said.

The administration proposes giving eligible residents aged 65 and above a monthly allowance of HK$2,200, up from the current HK$1,090, commonly known as "fruit money" because it buys so little. Applicants must pass a means test, which caps their assets at HK$186,000 and monthly income at HK$6,600.

The criteria are similar to those for single old people aged 65 to 69 under the current allowance scheme, according to the Social Welfare Department. Recipients 70 or older are currently not subject to a means test.

The government is struggling to win enough votes in the Legislative Council for its proposed revisions to the means test.

Opposition legislators, as well as some from pro-establishment parties, want the means test scrapped so all senior residents can receive the allowance.

They are calling for it to be made a retirement protection plan instead.

Lam stood firm yesterday on the need for a means test. "The criteria are very loose. I hope legislators will approve the plan."

The Legco finance committee is expected to discuss the scheme on October 26.