Hong Kong government not doing enough for residents living in dire poverty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 9:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 3:30pm

I find it difficult to understand that in a city like Hong Kong, with a lot of wealthy people, such as our tycoons, so many citizens struggle to get by, as a Chinese University study has shown (“Almost quarter of Hongkongers lack basic necessities”, December 15).

I often see beggars, street sleepers, and elderly poor residents collecting cardboard, cans and beer bottles, so they can make a few dollars selling them to recycling operators. And yet Hong Kong is often described as a prosperous international finance centre. The reality is that it is only prosperous for the privileged few.

Our government has huge financial reserves, and yet its payments to pensioners are hardly generous – an Old Age Allowance for people aged 70 or above and a means-tested allowance of HK$2,565 for those in need aged 65 or above. Allowances should be high enough so that elderly citizens do not have to beg or collect cardboard.

Also, even with a statutory minimum wage, many workers struggle to cope with the high cost of living. Our short-sighted government is not doing enough to help citizens living in poverty. The large surplus it inherited from the administration of governor Chris Patten has not been put to good use. Because he really cared about ordinary Hongkongers, he remains a popular figure during his return trips to the city.

Our officials seem to see maintaining huge reserves as a priority. It would be better to use some of the money to solve basic problems in areas such as housing, education, pollution and public hospitals.

It only takes baby steps to deal with problems which require urgent and radical action. This is certainly the case when it comes to officials’ efforts at poverty alleviation. Whether it is the annual HK$2,000 health care vouchers or transport allowances, these initiatives do not make a radical difference to the lives of the poorest residents. The government should spend whatever it takes to deal effectively with poverty in this city.

A.L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui