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.
Liberals vow to oppose 'too low' old-age proposal
Opposition to the government’s new Old Age Allowance hardened on Friday when the Liberal Party said its members would either vote against it, or abstain from voting, unless the government raises the asset limits for eligibility.
The party’s honourary chairman, lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun, told a radio interviewer on Friday morning that the HK$186,000 asset cap was impractical and too low.
“If the limit is raised to HK$300,000 or even HK$500,000, the extra cost would not be too much for the government to afford,” Tien said.
If the government refused to raise the asset cap, the five Liberals in Legco could only vote against, or abstain, when the proposal was put to a vote, he warned.
Previously the Liberals had merely said they were inclined to vote against the scheme, which would provide HK$2,200 per month to elderly Hongkongers.
Eligibility is limited to people with assets of no more than HK$186,000 and monthly income up to HK$6,600.
The government estimates the cost of the scheme will be HK$6.2 billion in the first year – ballooning out to HK$13.6 billion without the means test.
Legco’s Finance Committee is due to scrutinise the government proposal on Friday next week at the earliest.
Other than the Liberals, at least 29 lawmakers in the 70-strong legislature say they either will, or may, vote against the plan, after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying repeated his earlier vow, on Wednesday, not to give in to legislators’ demands to scrap or modify the means test.
That includes almost all of the 27 pan-democrats, who will meet again today to discuss the matter.
Even the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the biggest party in the legislature with 13 lawmakers, has warned that it might abstain from the vote if the government refuses to raise the asset limits.
That leaves the administration risking defeat, because fewer than 20 lawmakers remain firmly in favour of the plan – including seven from the Business and Professional Alliance, four independent lawmakers and two from the New People’s Party.