Lawmakers move to delay old-age allowance scheme

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 7:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 7:59pm

The row over the old-age allowance came to a head on Thursday afternoon, as opposition lawmakers sought to block its progress while the chief secretary offered them more time to discuss the controversial scheme.

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the administration was asking for a special Finance Committee meeting to vote on the allowance plan next Tuesday. The committee was originally scheduled to discuss the plan and vote on its HK$3.1 billion funding request on Friday.

But Lam said there was no room to make any change to the proposal.

Shortly after Lam spoke, the Legislative Council’s welfare panel passed a motion asking the Finance Committee not to discuss the plan, as scheduled, on Friday.

The motion was raised by the Labour Party’s Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and supported by pan-democrats. They insist the government must waive a means test for the new monthly allowance for those over 70 – or at least raise the asset cap – or they will defeat it.

Because the panel motion passed, chairman Chan Yuen-han must move a motion in Friday’s Finance Committee meeting, for the scheduled discussion of the allowance to be adjourned.

Lam urged legislators not to stop discussing the allowance plan now that more time had been arranged for the Finance Committee.

“So, I really see no need for the meeting to adjourn and forgo the six hours [in Friday’s talks], which could be used by members and by the officials to further address all the issues relating to the old age living allowance,” she said.

The government proposes giving HK$2,200 a month to people over 65 who have assets of less than HK$186,000 and a monthly income below HK$6,660. It would be subject to a means test.

The existing allowance of HK$1,090 a month, often referred to as “fruit money”, is only means-tested for those aged 65 to 69.