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Poverty

Will rising poverty shame Hong Kong into finally using fiscal reserves?

  • The 1.37 million people living below the poverty line in 2017 stand in sharp contrast to Hong Kong’s HK$1.1 trillion or more in fiscal reserves
PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 6:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2018, 6:33pm

I refer to the recently released Hong Kong Poverty Situation report, which showed 1.37 million of the city’s residents were living below the official poverty line last year, 25,000 more than the figure in 2016 (“Record 1.37 million people living below poverty line in Hong Kong”, November 19).

Our government is extremely rich, with fiscal reserves of nearly HK$1.1 trillion, rising to HK$1.8 trillion if various other piles of cash are factored in. Meanwhile, our wealth gap is at its worst in 45 years, more befitting a third world economy. Instead of mainly being invested in financial products, which merely benefits this sector, more of these reserve funds should be directed to social spending.

In my opinion, the government should first and foremost invest in children, especially in their education. The report shows the situation of children living in poverty has worsened, and intergenerational poverty is a grave threat. Investing in educating the young means investing in the human resources of our next generation, who are the future pillars of our society.

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Elderly poverty is also a serious concern, and one that has not been adequately addressed. Is the reasoning that the elderly will not live long anyway and are thus not worth investing in? In fact, the government seemed to partly blame the ageing population for the worsening poverty figures. We should respect the contribution of the elderly to society and try to relieve the financial burden on their families. What good does hanging onto our riches for some fantastical doomsday do, while one in five people struggles to make ends meet and often goes hungry?

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The government’s poverty alleviation programmes may not have been altogether in vain, but have clearly fallen short, or the problem would not have worsened. To show that its poverty reduction pledges are not just empty talk, the government must set targets, such as reducing poverty by a certain percentage in three years’ time.

Randy Lee, Ma On Shan