Housing and social welfare shortfalls come under attack

ACADEMICS and concern groups attacked the Government's delay in providing 'badly needed' improvements in social welfare and housing.

According to the report, only six of 22 commitments on social welfare and one of 12 on the elderly have been achieved.

Eleven pledges have not been met and the Government is worried these may not be achieved in full due to 'difficulties in finding sufficient premises', 'delays in construction work' or 'difficult site conditions'.

These included the provision of additional places in hostels and sheltered workshops for the mentally handicapped and the formerly mentally ill and in day activity centres and care and attention homes for the aged.

Hui Yin-fat, Legislative Council representative of the social services sector and chairman of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, asked if the reasons given were acceptable.

'The Governor should have studied the possibility of fulfilment before he made the commitment,' he said.

'He should have studied clearly the chance of getting premises before he promised to set up more hostels and care centres, otherwise he was only making empty promises.

'I feel very disappointed and puzzled. It seems that the Governor is not responsible for what he has said.' Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun of Hong Kong University, said even those targets listed as reached were 'not any big achievement'.

'The introduction of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme was only a restructuring of past social security benefits. It was only a rename,' said Professor Chow.

'The only achievement in elderly services - the setting up of a special working group on care for the elderly - is not any big effort by the Government. It's an achievement by the working group itself. It is the group which reviews and makes suggestions for the Government.' Professor Chow is a member of the group.

Housing watchdogs were dissatisfied with the Government's performance and condemned the report as 'a mere public relations tool' that aimed to mislead the public and hide problems.

The housing section of the report lists 11 pledges, but most work is only being carried out 'on course' and not accomplished.

The Government admitted that its projection that 60 per cent of families would own their own homes by 1997 might fail because of high property prices.

But officials maintain the anti-speculation measures announced in June can help make flats affordable and increase home ownership.

Hong Kong People's Council on Public Housing Policy's chief secretary Virginia Ip Chiu-ping criticised the report's figures that 130 public flats were built a day. 'About 130 flats a day,' she said, 'so what? It is actually something the Governor should be ashamed of.

'There are nearly 100,000 families on the public housing waiting list. They may have to wait for seven years to get a unit, given such daily production and the Housing Authority policy to allocate one-third of new units to waiting-list applicants.' A Housing Authority spokesman said the progress report had presented a comprehensive and factual account of what it had achieved so far and it was not prepared to comment further.