ANGRY unionists called on the Government to introduce the old age pension scheme and a central provident fund as soon as possible. But the territory's leading business chamber and some academics welcomed the move to scrap the scheme. They were commenting after the Government announced yesterday it was 'reassessing' various options for the elderly - signalling that the pension scheme was to be dropped. Unionist and legislator Mr Pang Chun-hoi accused the Government of deceiving the public. He said the Government was irresponsible for arguing that opinion was split on the scheme, because it had received more than 70 per cent support for the scheme in opinion polls. The Government should be ashamed that many people still had to rely on the most basic social welfare after decades of economic growth, said Mr Pang. Former legislator Lau Chin-shek, chairman of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said there should be a combined package of a central provident fund and the pension scheme. He condemned the Government's frequent shifting of stance on the issue, adding that it should have the determination to push ahead with the scheme if it was convinced it was the best option. Democratic Party legislator Dr Yeung Sum was shocked by the decision. He dismissed as an excuse the Government's insistence that the scheme had to be dropped because opinion was divided, adding that the business sector and China were to blame. Pro-China legislator Tam Yiu-chung from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) said his party was disappointed. He said the Government had given bad news right before the Lunar New Year to the elderly, who were to be paid $2,300 a month under the scheme. But Liberal Party legislator James Tien Pei-chun said he welcomed the Government's move. He said the party had been criticising the scheme for mixing the old age welfare benefits with retirement protection. Mr Tien said the Government would consider introducing a mandatory provident fund system. Party colleague Henry Tang Ying-yen said he was not surprised with the decision given the shortcomings of the proposal. He urged the Government to reconsider the idea of a mandatory provident fund and a mixed government-run retirement protection scheme. 'Even though the present Government is a sunset government, it still has the obligation to handle the retirement protection problem,' said Mr Tang. Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce director, Ian Christie, said: 'I think my main feeling is one of relief. What we believe to be a scheme which is not in the long-term economic interest of Hong Kong nor the needy or the aged population has been dropped.' He said the proposal would pose a financial liability to the territory and the Special Administrative Region. A leading academic opposing the scheme, Francis Lui Ting-ming, said it was a move in the right direction. Mr Lui, a senior economics lecturer at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said China's worries over the financial burden incurred by the plan were justified.