Members of Hong Kong’s business sector have expressed objections to any retirement protection scheme that means money coming out of their coffers. At a forum on Tuesday held by the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, chairman of Wharf Holdings and the chamber told Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor: “Welfare which everyone can get is not the Hong Kong spirit.” While the topic for discussion was retirement protection, many lamented how government policies had “created hardship” for employers. Critics accuse Hong Kong government of already deciding to opt for a means-tested scheme rather than a full-blown universal pension The minimum wage was cited as being lethal for small and medium-sized enterprises, while there were complaints that public money, much of it from the business and commerce sector, was “misused” – for instance on disabled babies abandoned in Hong Kong by their mainland Chinese parents. On retirement protection, the idea was floated of building an “elderly town” across the border. “Singapore’s been doing it. If the elderly are willing to go up, the government can give them more money,” said businessman Dominic Yin, who also runs an NGO. Yin added that those who can “age in place” or “age at home” must be well-off enough to hire a domestic worker. “Ageing in place is an option for those who can afford it. And in that case, just subsidise them a little.” A six-month consultation on the issue ends on June 21. The government has proposed two options: a universal scheme in which every elderly person receives HK$3,000 a month; and a means-tested scheme, which the government prefers, where only those with assets of less than HK$80,000 would get such an allowance. The government is wrong: Universal pension scheme CAN work for all in Hong Kong, say academics Someone else at the forum suggested the focus be on “helping the elderly liquidise their assets” with schemes like reverse mortgages. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said two Hong Kong-run elderly homes in Guangdong had received only a lukewarm response from elderly Hongkongers, who were worried about the lack of reliable medical support on the mainland. The business sector was also against cancelling the Mandatory Provident Fund’s offsetting mechanism, which allows bosses to pay severance or long-service pay with their MPF contributions. The offset mechanism is part of the retirement protection public consultation. “If the government wants to tackle the offset mechanism, it’s best that they review the whole MPF,” said lawmaker Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who said fund managers gained more than workers lost through offsetting.