CY Leung policy address 2014

Middle class and SME owners bemoan lack of sweeteners for them in policy address

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 7:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 9:29am

The middle class and operators of small and medium-sized enterprises were disappointed by the lack of immediate measures in the policy address to help them - raising concern that tensions between the poor and the middle class may worsen.

"The words 'middle class' and 'small and medium-sized enterprises' were not even mentioned. But their contribution to Hong Kong cannot be ignored," Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, lawmaker and leader of the Business and Professionals Alliance, said.

"I hope that these two groups of people can benefit from the coming budget," he said.

Middle-class advocate Alvin Lee Chi-wing said many were worried that the increasing amounts of public money being spent on social welfare might bring higher taxes.

And Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the proposed increase in recurrent expenditure could trigger conflicts and debate between the poor and the middle class. It might also worsen the tension between Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the city's more well-off citizens, Choy said.

Lee, chairman of pressure group Voice of the Middle Class, said they had hoped to hear firm plans for 15 years of free education, tax exemptions on medical insurance and lower taxes - although tax measures would usually be dealt with in the budget.

Leung said the government should not help the middle-class through cash transfers but by improving their quality of life and fostering economic development.

But Lee, a secondary school teacher and Sha Tin district councillor, described the address as "very disappointing", though he acknowledged: "Many actually did not have much hope.

"It seems like the middle class has been ignored."

He also had wanted more district amenities such as sports grounds in districts where they were getting crowded.

Manfred Lau Man-fung, Asia-Pacific business consulting director with talent-management firm Graval, also noticed the absence of measures to help middle-class people like him. Lau, who makes HK$60,000 a month, said he wanted the government to offer subsidies for small and medium-sized enterprises.