Old age means test irks even government allies Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen cautioned the public and lawmakers to consider carefully the implications of raising the old-age allowance to HK$1,000 a month without requiring that applicants take a means test. Foregoing the test was a decision for the public to make, but doing so would create a heavy burden for the next generation, Mr Tsang said. His warning came as the government proposal, unveiled on Wednesday, drew heavy criticism for being heartless. Mr Tsang sidestepped a question from Democratic lawmaker Wong Sing-chi in the Legislative Council about whether the government would withdraw the proposal if Legco turned it down. 'Everything must have a reason and I respect Legco's opinion,' Mr Tsang said. The idea was also challenged by the government-friendly camp. Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the chief executive would disappoint thousands of elderly folk. Introducing a means test 'reflects a lack of full understanding of the elderly's wishes,' Mr Tam told Mr Tsang in a Legco question and answer session yesterday. 'Many of your elderly supporters are disappointed,' he added. In response, Mr Tsang said the old-age allowance had changed from a payment which conveyed respect to the elderly to supporting their living. 'It cannot be denied that the necessity of 'fruit money' has changed,' he said. Noting that an increase in the old-age allowance constituted a long-term policy change, he added: 'We have to consider the consequences of increasing fruit money, as all policies should be sustainable.' Citing government demographic forecasts, Mr Tsang said that in 25 years' time, every four residents would include one senior citizen and one person under 20. That meant that the two adult taxpayers would have to contribute HK$500 a month each to support the elderly. The government's proposal was also a hot issue on a radio phone-in programme yesterday. One caller, Ms Lai, said: 'Introducing a means test on the elderly is really heartless. 'Many elderly people have saved only HK$100,000 after working for their whole life,' she said. 'But with this level of savings, they cannot get the allowance' with a means test. Another caller Mr Leung, 69, said the government had distorted the meaning of the old-age allowance which previously was considered a respectful payment to the elderly. But one caller also supported the proposal of a means test, noting that some elderly were very rich. Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, chairman of pressure group Middle Class Power, said: 'The middle class will certainly be unable to get fruit money if a means test is introduced.' 'The means test proposal is very unfair to new applicants. The government is very mean and short-sighted.' Voice of the Middle Class chairman Alvin Lee Chi-wing also opposed the introduction of a means test: 'We'd rather have higher tax rates if the government can no longer afford to pay the old-age allowance.' People aged 70 and above get a higher old-age allowance of HK$705 a month without a means test. Those aged 65 to 69 whose assets and income do not exceed stipulated limits get a normal old age allowance of HK$625 a month.