Consultation on retirement scheme ‘like staging a show’, former lawmaker Frederick Fung says

He and fellow Commission on Poverty member Law Chi-kwong clash over government’s lack of clear stance on issue

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 12:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 12:44pm

A disagreement over how the city should move forward with a much-anticipated retirement protection scheme led to a war of words between two Commission on Poverty members on the radio on Monday morning.

Former lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee said it was “unacceptable” that the panel had yet to express its position on the issue, while fellow panel member Law Chi-kwong argued that the lack of a consensus in society and within the commission meant that it was difficult to lay down a direction.

“It’s been three years since [Hong Kong] began debating the issue. I think it’s time now that the commission makes its stance clear instead of letting individual members give their personal views,” Fung said.

“[The consultation] was like staging a show,” Fung added, hitting out at the government.

The authorities on Friday released the findings of a six-month consultation on retirement protection, which received over 18,000 submissions from the public, 90 per cent of which were in favour of a universal pension scheme that entitled senior citizens aged 65 or above to a monthly handout of HK$3,230.

The other proposal required a means test, which the government argued would greatly reduce the burden on public coffers.

Pan-democrat Fung, who founded the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood and has earned a reputation for helping grassroots causes and the underprivileged, also questioned the government’s sincerity in implementing the pension scheme.

But Law, a social work associate professor with the University of Hong Kong, felt the city was split on the matter and that it was difficult for the commission to choose a side at this juncture.

“Such debate still revolves around the ideological values ... we have not discussed from an objective point of view the scheme’s financial sustainability,” he pointed out.

Hong Kong government ‘likely’ to propose means-tested pension plan, says advisory commission

On a separate radio programme, fellow commission member Michael Tien Puk-sun questioned the impartiality of the consultation results.

The New People’s Party lawmaker argued that those who wanted the condition-free handout would surely voice their opinion, likening the situation to asking people if they wanted a tax waiver or cash handout from the government.

The businessman proposed simplifying the means test by removing the asset cap of HK$80,000. He stressed this was merely his personal opinion and did not represent the views of his party.

NPP boss and chief executive aspirant Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee is proposing a three-tier means test, with funds handed out in increments according to the applicant’s income and savings levels.