Carrie Lam is no miser on welfare, but Hong Kong seniors are right to disagree
- What may be a sensible decision from a budgeting perspective is hard to support when it could worsen elderly poverty, and even push some into homelessness
An alliance to defend elderly welfare rights demonstrated in front of the Chief Executive’s Office on Saturday, along with several members of Hong Kong’s senior population, rebuking Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for being so miserly as to raise the eligibility age for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) from 60 to 65 (“Protests decry raising of CSSA elderly payment threshold”, January 12). Miserly in the sense of lavishing hundreds of billions dollars on infrastructure but cutting back on welfare payable to citizens aged 60 to 64.
This policy is to become effective on February 1, and has led to worries among many in that age group. The alliance sharply criticised the government for refusing to put in place a retirement protection scheme, but choosing instead to rather recklessly cut back on the size of the group eligible for welfare. They called the policy inhumane and called for its retraction.
I understand the anger and dismay, especially among those who are nearly 60 and had been hoping to benefit from the CSSA. Some even say they might be relegated to the ranks of the homeless, as this decision comes out of the blue and does not leave them enough time to make contingency plans.
However, I do not think Carrie Lam is such a miser on elderly welfare. I believe the move to raise the benefit age stems from her being a neat and tidy person; perhaps she just wants the welfare policies to be in line with realities such as increased life expectancy and a tendency to delay retirement, as well as the transport fare concession and health care voucher schemes for the elderly.
However, the cruel reality is that not many employers would feel like hiring from that age group. Our government may want tidiness, but old people may want a bit of disorder.
Randy Lee, Ma On Shan