Hong Kong Budget 2018-2019

More than 1.5 million Hongkongers to get cash handout of HK$4,000 each as government bows to intense political pressure

Sources say an official announcement will be made as early as Friday afternoon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 6:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 11:58am

More than 1.5 million Hongkongers who do not benefit from this year’s budget are set to receive a cash handout of HK$4,000 (US$510) each from the government.

Sources said an announcement would be made as early as Friday afternoon.

Under intense public and political pressure to further share the bumper HK$138 billion surplus announced in last month’s budget, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po will spend an extra HK$10 billion on the handout.

Former Hong Kong minister wanted budget to include HK$3,000 ‘red packets’ for all

The sources also confirmed the government would not limit it to only those earning less than HK$15,500 per month, as reported earlier by some media, but take other factors into consideration when deciding on eligibility. Only those aged 18 years and above, covering young people, housewives and retirees, would be eligible for the handout, to be administered by the Community Care Fund, a public-private trust.

“The financial secretary still adopts a targeted approach … given not everyone would receive the cash handouts,” a source said, noting that it was not a U-turn on the government’s part.

Hong Kong financial chief faces budget dilemma of those who lose out

Chan in his financial blueprint – the first by the government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor – dished out a combination of salary and profits tax rebates and increased old age and disability allowances for at least two million Hongkongers.

The finance chief asked the Community Care Fund to consider reoffering short-term relief for the so-called “N-nothing” households, defined as those who do not receive subsidised housing or welfare assistance but do not earn enough to buy a home or benefit from tax breaks.

Government will look into helping those who missed out on Hong Kong budget perks and consider redefining ‘N-nothing’

When Chan was accused of distributing the sweeteners unevenly, with more than 80 per cent of the HK$50 billion spending package going to the middle class and less to those who neither paid taxes nor received allowances, he maintained that doling out cash to all was not part of this administration’s fiscal strategy.

Grass roots got more this year, Hong Kong finance chief says in defence of budget

However, in the days that followed, lawmakers across the political spectrum piled pressure on the government to give Hongkongers a universal cash handout, suggesting they might veto the budget in the Legislative Council if it did not take “remedial action”

According to a poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme one to two days after the budget announcement, the 500 people surveyed gave the budget 42.8 marks out of 100, meaning satisfaction with the government’s financial strategy plunged to a seven-year low.

Expanding special allowance scheme for Hong Kong’s needy could pose headache, warn fund task force members

In the wake of the public backlash, Chan and welfare minister Dr Law Chi-kwong said the definition of “N-nothing” households could be expanded to cover low-income retirees, young people and even housewives.