Our government denies help to those in need and helps those who don’t need it. It will take away old-age welfare payments to new recipients aged under 65 but is likely to continue a rebate on rates for property owners. So you own multiple properties? No worries, it will be business as usual: you still get your deduction on all the flats you own – subject to a ceiling of HK$2,500 each – not just one. Who have benefited most? Developers and big landlords, of course! Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who was herself a director of social welfare, has achieved something rare in Hong Kong politics: she has united both the opposition and the pro-establishment blocs against the government’s effective cut on welfare for those aged 60 to 64. The substantial reduction amounts to a third of current payments. Lawmakers united against ‘heartless’ proposal for elderly welfare payments Lam said this was necessary because local people were living and working longer. However, for those who can work into old age, they won’t qualify for the welfare anyway. Work yourself to death, then? If you can do that, consider yourself lucky. Those who are forced into retirement or are out of work in middle age could be in a deep hole. You try finding a real job at 60. Meanwhile, the government had originally planned to overhaul the rates rebate, making it available per owner, rather than per property. Why? Because it’s regressive as a tax cut measure. Now, though, it is having second thoughts. Lam recently told lawmakers it wasn’t really unfair. She cited the example of a corporate landlord who owned more than 15,000 properties and passed on the rebates to tenants. “This shows that what may appear unfair on the surface may not be so in reality, when you care to look into the matter,” she said. I suppose her argument is that tenants benefit from the rebates, too, not just landlords. But can she be sure that all landlords do that? I am fairly sure many of those who run subdivided flats – among other landlords – have been collecting the normal rates, which are usually divided up among multiple tenants. By the way, continuing the rates rebates unchanged means the government will forego HK$17.8 billion a year, while it costs only HK$1 billion annually to keep the old-age allowance payment from 60. That’s government logic for you.