The old-age allowance should be increased and minimum wage legislation introduced, says Wong Sai-man I did not have many expectations about this year's policy address, and the government will not do much to help the grass roots amid the financial meltdown. Meanwhile, the two most controversial issues - a minimum wage and 'fruit money' (the old-age allowance) - have nothing to do with me directly. First, I am a taxi driver; I am an employer myself. Second, my parents have passed away and I will not qualify to get fruit money in the near future. On the fruit-money policy, I think the government should increase it to at least HK$1,000 a month, and it should not require any means-test mechanism. The purpose of fruit money is to express respect to the elderly for their service to society, rather than being assistance to the needy. It should be unconditional, and I think introducing a means test would be a departure from the policy's original purpose. I would not say the government is heartless on this issue, because it is facing a dilemma, too. It will face a heavy financial burden if the allowance is increased. At the end of the day, it is the taxpayers' money. A period of tough economic times is expected in the wake of the financial meltdown. The government has to be careful when deciding how to spend the money. However, it should bear in mind that most Hongkongers are not willing to take a free lunch from the government. The elderly only ask for help when they cannot work and cannot afford a basic lifestyle. I think the government should listen carefully to the demands of the underprivileged. An allowance of HK$1,000 per month is not a large sum amid rampant inflation. Even if the government agrees to increase the fruit money to HK$1,000 unconditionally, I do not think it will be sufficient. But certainly, it will be better than nothing. On minimum-wage legislation, I think Hong Kong needs this law to protect the poor. Those who have worked hard should be rewarded with the salary they deserve. But I do not think there should be a standardised minimum wage level for all sectors, because some jobs are harsher than others. For example, cleaners and construction workers deserve higher wages, I think. But cashiers, sales staff and security guards deserve less because they are just working indoors and, more often, simply idling. The government should pay attention to those in their 40s and 50s, as I am worried that many of them will be laid off after the legislation. When employees request higher wages, it is fair for employers to demand more from their staff. Therefore, the government should make an effort to help those middle-aged workers with few skills and a low education level. I think employees should grasp any opportunities to enhance their competitiveness in the job market as well. However, I think the government should review its contract-out policy before it introduces the minimum-wage law, because many companies offering low wages to staff are those with contracts from the government. Meanwhile, I do have an eye on the stock markets, not because I have invested in any stocks, but to see if the shaky financial situation will one day become a recession. This would then affect my income. I am pessimistic about Hong Kong's economy in the near future. I guess it will take five years to recover, and the impact of the recession will be more or less the same as we suffered during the Sars outbreak in 2003 and the Asian financial crisis in 1998. I do not have children. What I want is to have a stable life with my wife and to have enough income to live on. That is all I want, and what I can do at the moment is to pray for a stable life amid the coming economic turmoil. I really do not want to beg the government for help as long as I can still work. It is troublesome to request something from government. I had a painful experience applying for public housing. I filled out lengthy documents but, eventually, the government rejected my application because my family income exceeded the limit by only a few hundred dollars. I think the government policy is too rigid.