Old age allowance

Vote on old-age living allowance delayed again

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 December, 2012, 3:50am

Intended beneficiaries of the government's proposed old-age living allowance have lost another HK$2,200 each after a lawmaker's filibuster prevented a vote on whether to approve funding for the measure.

Had the allowance been passed when an attempt to reach a vote on it was first made two months ago, payments would have been backdated to October. It is government practice to backdate payments to the first day of the month in which lawmakers approve them.

The allowance is meant to help the elderly poor, and would be an alternative to the old-age allowance of HK$1,090.

The government says the new allowance must be means-tested for all recipients aged 65 and over to avoid its cost ballooning as the elderly population grows. But lawmakers have vowed to prevent its approval unless the means test is eased or scrapped. The current allowance is only means-tested for recipients aged 65 to 69.

Old people with income of not more than HK$6,660 a month and assets of no more than HK$186,000 would be eligible.

Last night's meeting of the Legislative Council's finance committee meeting was the sixth since October to discuss the government's application for HK$3.1 billion to fund the allowance for the financial year to March.

"Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, of the League of Social Democrats, who has moved hundreds of amendments - all vetoed - in previous weeks, vowed to continue the delaying tactics until the government changed tack. At yesterday's six-hour meeting he moved another 200 amendments, drawing criticism from government allies.

Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, who earlier suggested the committee work overnight to clear the amendments, said it was the only solution to ending the filibuster.

Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People's Party said Legco was being hijacked.