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.
It's up to us all to bring about change in our lives
Government is working towards meeting its goals but we all play a part in their success
The chief executive may not be universally popular, but that should not mean his policies should be disregarded. Since July last year, Leung Chun-ying has taken steps on each of the four key issues he promised to tackle: housing, poverty, ageing and the environment. None of these steps can fully resolve the chronic problems being addressed. Yet they do represent a fundamental change in policy stance; the government is now prepared to face these issues, and tackle them. Previous administrations either brushed them under the carpet, or pretended they could be resolved by market forces alone.
It is Leung's responsibility to sort out difficult issues, but we can, and should, help.
The Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) has proved to be a welcome step in the right direction. More than 400,000 elderly people in need now have more money in their pockets. The next step would be to examine, in depth, how far we can go in building an affordable retirement protection scheme on top of the OALA. A dedicated group is now working on this. We should pay close attention, because its success will ease the worries of millions of our elderly and working poor.
When it comes to the environment, subsidising the removal of below-standard diesel vehicles from our roads is a price most consider worth paying. The charging scheme for waste disposal may need more time before the public warms to it. But the more imminent task is to extend the life of the three waste dumps, at least until the proposed incinerator is up and running, hopefully in a decade. Waste cannot be wished away. Continuing to block the extension programmes will bring disastrous consequences to our environment.
The success of the Poverty Commission in setting a broadly accepted poverty line has laid down two key lessons we may learn from. First, it is feasible for a highly controversial issue to be agreed upon within a reasonable time, as long as the government is prepared to be inclusive and be open-minded. Second, for the first time in Hong Kong's history, we have a workable tool to tackle poverty at the right spots and to evaluate its effectiveness.
Housing remains the biggest challenge to the current administration. The figures and projections in the long-term housing strategy consultation document have been worked out with the best available data. The demand is too obvious and needs no further questioning. The challenge is to find sufficient land to cater for it. Here, the entire community needs to come together and move forward. If we continue to duck the issue, our next generation will not forgive us.
Lam Woon-kwong is an executive councillor