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  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Updated: 12:24am
NewsHong Kong
BUDGET

Exco convenor urges government to scrap mass handouts in budget

Exco convenor says C.Y. Leung should boost his popularity by keeping election promises, not distributing sweeteners in next month's budget

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 January, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 January, 2014, 9:00am
 

Poll

  • Yes: 17%
  • No: 83%
25 Jan 2014
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 361

The government must "show political courage" and clamp down on handouts in next month's budget to ensure public finances remain on a sound footing, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's top adviser has urged.

Lam Woon-kwong, the first member of Leung's cabinet to publicly suggest reducing handouts, said the city's leader could only improve his popularity by delivering on his election pledges, which include reforming the Mandatory Provident Fund, free education for every child and retirement protection.

"We should scrap unreasonable handouts if we really care about the sustainability of public finances," Lam said, a week after a government source hinted there would be fewer sweeteners in the budget than has been the case in recent years.

The government's surplus for the current financial year - some of which was earmarked by Leung in his policy address this month to pay for measures to help the less well-off - is estimated to be between HK$10 billion and HK$20 billion, compared with HK$64.8 billion in the last financial year.

In recent years, the administration has offered several handouts to the public, including two rent-free months for public housing tenants, an extra allowance to people on social security, a partial waiver of property rates, and electricity subsidies for all households. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah offered a HK$33 billion package of one-off relief measures in last year's budget.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Lam said waiving public housing rents had created unreasonable expectations among tenants and the measure had further depleted the Housing Authority's coffers.

"The situation is so unreasonable that whenever rent waivers are not granted, public housing tenants would fire salvos against the government," he said.

Lam, the Executive Council convenor, added that the waiver of property rates, which would cost the government HK$11.6 billion this financial year, was also unfair on people who did not own their homes.

"The government lost billions in revenue by granting a rates waiver, but I doubt many property owners bother to say thank you to the administration," he said. Lam said it was also unreasonable to grant an electricity subsidy.

"Offering sweeteners is not the recipe for boosting popularity. [Former chief executive] Donald Tsang Yam-kuen dished out relief measures worth nearly HK$200 billion during his tenure but it didn't help raise his popularity," Lam said.

"The government should show political courage and scrap indiscriminate giveaways," he said. "Even if such sweeteners are offered, they should only be given to those really in need, such as elderly homeowners who have no regular income."

The billions of dollars promised to the poor in the policy address have sparked concerns over whether the government can afford the rising expenditure.

Lam did praise the chief executive for taking an important step to help the working poor by offering a low-income family allowance.

He said he hoped Leung would deliver on election pledges to abolish the mechanism by which employers offset long-service and severance pay against their contributions to employees' Mandatory Provident Fund accounts, as well as free education for every child for 15 years and a fund for the city's ageing population.

 

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This article is now closed to comments

williechow
Why is financial assistance to the less fortunate called "handouts"?
yunkpoon2
Of course they are handouts. Hong Kong government just gives money regularly to the poor, rather than proposing long-term strategy to get their **** out of the poor line. Do you still remember the $6000 one-off handout? Does it really helps the poverty in long-term? I dont think so
sipsip1238
Because HK locals think that helping the poor is not required, what they want is for government to pay them and them only.
Government tries to help the less fortunate or people under the poverty line, and people kick up a fuss and raise examples of people will abuse the welfare system, but fail to understand that welfare at any level will always be subjected to abuse, but these complainers fail to understand that the culprits are the minority.
Then you get idiot comments like pslhk who brings examples of home owning cart pushers and how they actually don't need welfare or don't need help and should not be viewed that way. Think from the other side, home owning cart pushers are the minority, so we should help where we can.
At the end of all these, people in HK believes that survival for the less fortunate is less important than getting more benefits so that they can have more money "left" at the end of the month.
If the complaining middle class really believes that the less fortunate are getting a better deal, quit your job, donate your assets away so you can past the means test and take the welfare, see how you'd enjoy it. And if you're not willing to, then things aren't as bad and the others deserve help more than you.
pslhk
The elderly in the picture looks like
but is not the cleaner I know
who has for many years a debt free owner
of a new and sizeable apartment in Caine Road
another cleaner a younger woman
working in the same neighborhood
has long had a resort house across the border
the woman is often seen pushing a cart loaded with rubbish
and the quite dirty looking man
is sometimes seen searching for goodies in garbage bins
johnyuan
To psi,
.
Yes, there were few working the neighborhood in Staunton Street which is one block downhill of Caine Road. So in Peel Street which crosses between Caine and Staunton. The fact is Hong Kong at least in my old neighborhood is not short of these very old women hauling cardboard boxes in the streets. In the 60s I even saw hauling leftovers from restaurants meandering up the Peel Street. I think to grow up in such an environment one is easily become insensitive in others’ hardships. We are still wrought in a refugee culture – be thankful that you are in Hong Kong and not in mainland.
pslhk
"be thankful that you're in mainland and not in HK"
that's how I should be thinking of some of the people I know there
but I won’t be saying so
Wong Yanlung was made to apologize publicly at an ABA conference
for telling US lawyers “what they should know”
about HK’s excellent legal services
smarter, better educated and better exposed people
(surely you're smart, educated and exposed)
would know better than stepping out of their depth to patronize
(surely you've depth)
there‘re all sorts of reasons to be thankful without being told
I’m sure some Hkers want to tell their Taiwanese compatriots to be thankful
simply for their US visa-free privilege
thanks but no thanks
johnyuan
To psl,
.
Once we go beyond the refugee mentality, the 'be thankful you are in mainland and not in HK' is deadly right even it is not for everybody.
Carparklee
I agree with Mr. Lam.
John Adams
This is probably THE most sensible policy advice I have heard in a decade or more,
I do sincerely hope that CY takes it to heart and mind for the common good of us all.
HK_eh!
we can comment all we want, but there will be no significant change unless the govt relations to the tycoons is broken by the people, and we all know it's not going to happen.
it's like a drug addict complaining about the dealers and later going back to the pusher for the next hit. Just can't cut it off.

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