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.
Chief executive won't press lawmakers to back old-age allowance
Chief executive stands firm on requirement that recipients of new subsidy pass a means test
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying emphasised yesterday that he had no intention of applying pressure on the legislature to approve funding for a proposed old-age living allowance, and stood firm on the need for recipients to be means-tested.
The administration has asked the Legislative Council's Finance Committee to bring forward by a week, to November 9, its next discussion of an application for funding of the measures.
At a Legco question-and-answer session yesterday, Leung remained defiant on the means test for the proposed HK$2,200-a-month allowance and refused to backdate its payment to October 1 even if the HK$3.1 billion funding is passed this month.
Payments could only be backdated to November 1, Leung said.
The need for all applicants to pass a means test contrasts with the eligibility for the current Old Age Allowance of HK$1,090 a month, to which all those 70 and over are entitled. If the new allowance were approved, eligible residents could apply for either allowance.
Leung emphasised his stance yesterday. "We must have a stable financial plan. It is not [necessarily] the case that the government must have the financial strength [to pay every elderly person the allowance without a means test] because we are a highly developed economy … what we should do is have a responsible scheme. Any scheme we pledge to the elderly must be sustainable day after day, and year after year, and this is a rather big financial challenge for us."
In response to a question from People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, Leung said there was no precedent for backdating welfare payments by more than a month before it won Legco's approval.
"We are not pushing or forcing the lawmakers by any means, but the fact is that we could only start our preparation, which will last for months, after we win the Finance Committee's approval," Leung said.
The government yesterday requested that committee chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan hold an additional meeting next Friday to bring forward scrutiny of the proposal.
Discussion was originally scheduled for November 16 following the failure to put the funding request to a vote on Tuesday after a four-hour meeting. A Labour and Welfare Bureau spokeswoman said it proposed an extra meeting, as "we hope to introduce the scheme as soon as possible".