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.
Democrats push for vote on old age allowance
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum were hoping for quick passage of the proposed new allowance for elderly people, as they got ready to begin a six-hour meeting on the issue on Friday afternoon.
The Legislative Council’s Finance Committee will hold the lengthy session to resume scrutiny of the government’s funding application for the monthly HK$2,200 allowance.
Before the meeting, at least three parties said they hoped a quick vote could be held. Discussion on the subject has been going on for weeks as legislators pressured the government to relax restrictions on applicants.
Radical pan-democrats want a means test scrapped altogether, while the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Trade Unions want it scrapped for those aged 70 and older.
Emily Lau Wai-hing, vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Party, said on Friday morning the party wanted the proposal put to a vote as soon as possible.
“We think that we should proceed with the voting because people in the community have told us quite clearly that we should go ahead and get it done,” she said.
Two pro-establishment parties – the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the New People’s Party – also support an early vote to let elderly people receive the benefits soon.
Meanwhile, maverick lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung has prepared to stage a filibuster at the meeting. He said he planned to submit more than 1,000 amendments, to defer voting, in order to force the government to scrap the means test.
Under the current proposal, everyone aged 65 and over would be eligible for the allowance – an improvement on the current HK$1,090-a-month allowance – but would have to undergo a means test. They would qualify if their monthly income was not more than HK$6,660 and their assets did not exceed HK$186,000.
The government says scrapping the means test would increase the city’s financial burden.