Policymakers should not have to dwell on whether a forthcoming retirement protection scheme for Hong Kong is “universal” or not, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday. Lam was speaking in defence of the decision by the government’s Commission on Poverty to drop the term “universal” from proposals for a retirement protection scheme included in an unreleased public consultation paper, parts of which were disclosed by Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily . The consultation paper is still being drafted and is due to be released in December. READ MORE: Consultation document will offer concrete plans on retirement protection, says Hong Kong chief secretary “This so-called ‘universal retirement protection scheme’ is a term used very frequently by some concern groups,” Lam, who chairs the commission, said yesterday. “But to conduct a comprehensive and complete consultation on retirement protection, we can’t dwell on whether our scheme should be universal or non-universal.” The consultation paper contained six proposals submitted by scholars and other groups classified into two categories. One category, labelled “Regardless of rich or poor”, would award every elderly resident a certain amount of cash every month. The second category contained proposals that would cover the elderly whose assets fall below a certain limit. Schemes in this category were termed to be “based on economic needs”. Lam said the latter set of schemes would target only those most in need to make best use of limited resources. The labels are yet to be translated into English. “I think we are being very honest and trying to facilitate public discussion on a very important subject for Hong Kong. There is no question of there being any misleading at all,” she said, adding it had been a majority decision among commission members to agree on the descriptions of the schemes. She confirmed claims in the Apple Daily report that she had “praised” welfare minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung for coming up with the two descriptions, saying he had a “high level of Chinese proficiency”. She said she was disappointed the discussions were leaked. Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun, who came up with one of the proposals in the consultation paper, said the government’s label of his proposal would “make people feel the scheme would be careless with money”. He said he was “very disappointed” and “regretted” classifying the schemes using such language. Under Chow’s proposal, the government would allocate funding of HK$6 billion to HK$8 billion a year so that every person aged 70 or above could receive HK$3,000 a month. “If the consultation is conducted this way, the government is only leading people into giving an answer that will conform to its long-held position,” Chow said. Chan Yuen-han, a lawmaker with the Federation of Trade Unions, slammed the commission for the “misleading” labels. The consultation also looks at how much taxes would need to go up to sustain the schemes.