Hong Kong plans to set its first official poverty line in 2013. The threshold will be decided by a panel of experts at the Commission on Poverty but is expected to be set at half of the median household income.
Poverty line will be drawn this year, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung promises
Hong Kong's official poverty line will be drawn this year, welfare chief Matthew Cheung Kin-chung promised yesterday.
At a Legislative Council welfare panel meeting, the Secretary of Labour and Welfare also defended Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's maiden policy address, which many in the social welfare circle had deemed "extremely disappointing" with nothing new being offered.
"There are a lot of new [welfare] plans, which I think people and the media have neglected," Cheung said.
He said that the government's step towards drawing a poverty line showed that the administration was determined to tackle the issue.
"The [poverty] line will help us identify the groups that are poor and measure the effectiveness of government measures," he said.
But many legislators said the proposed measures were shallow and short-term.
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said that a poverty line was not the answer.
"It's what policies we set up, what we choose to do after drawing the line that's important."
Apart from the poverty line, new government measures include extending the old age allowance or "fruit money" to elderly Hong Kong citizens living in Guangdong, and launching the much-debated increased allowance for elderly in need.
Cheung said that help for the disabled would also increase, in the wake of a scathing report at a United Nations meeting in Geneva last year which urged the Hong Kong government to do better.
Measures would include increasing daycare and care homes for the disabled, and extending the home care service for the severely disabled, which is running as a pilot scheme until February next year, he said.
But Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said the government was still not doing enough to plan for the future.
"[The government] still has no long-term plan," he said. "There are no figures, no research, no undertaking, no planning.
"There are currently 20,000 elderly people waiting for care home spaces, with some 5,000 dying while in line, and you increase spaces by only 1,700?
"There are over 700 children with special needs waiting for child-care help and they still need to wait three months?
"How can you call this planning?" Cheung asked.