Residents who slip through the cracks have little hope in new budget
A rent subsidy is at the top of mother-of-two Yeung San-hung's budget wish list.
"HK$1,000 - a thousand would make a huge difference for us," said the 36-year-old. It would mean more money to improve her children's welfare, she said.
Families like Yeung's have been coined the "n-nothings" for having zero help from the government despite the basketful of poverty alleviation measures that have been introduced over the past two years. Their situation has only grown worse due to rising rents and inflation.
The Yeungs - who have been in line for public housing for six years - rent a 100 sq ft subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po, which costs HK$4,000 a month including utilities. Her husband, who is a full-time painter and decorator, earns around HK$10,000 a month.
They don't benefit from the electricity subsidy of up to HK$1,800 per household handed out in the last budget, as the families living in the subdivided flat share an account under their landlord's name.
After Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's disappointing policy address, Yeung said her hopes for this budget were not high.
Last year's budget dished out some poverty relief, like an extra month of payments to recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) - the government welfare scheme - and a three-month rent-free period for public housing tenants.
Again, not being on welfare or in public housing, none of these benefitted the "n-nothings" (the n is taken from its frequent use in maths as an unspecified figure).
"There has never been anything for us n-nothings in all those previous budgets," Yeung said. "I still hope for a rent subsidy and a subsidy to enable my children to have at least one extra-curricular activity. But I know the chances are slim."
It is her children's well-being and future that worries Yeung most. This month, a report by the Society for Community Organisation showed nearly 90 per cent of secondary schools count extra-curricular activities as part of their admissions criteria.
Professor Law Chi-kwong, the chairman of the Community Care Fund and a member of the Commission on Poverty, said that he expects the government to be giving out more sweeteners in the coming budget, like subsidies for bills, but whether it would cover the "n-nothings" remained to be seen.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announces his budget next week. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Hong Kong predicted that the budget surplus for the current financial year could hit HK$56 billion.