HK$5,000 vouchers: Hong Kong residents need another round of handouts, Democratic Party says, calls for pupils to be included
- Democratic Party says another handout is needed because HK$5,000 is not a large sum and can be spent quickly
- Party also urges government to allow elderly residents to get subsidy in cash
Hong Kong’s largest opposition party has called on the government to dish out another round of HK$5,000 consumption vouchers to residents, as well as to expand the scheme to cover 850,000 schoolchildren and allow the elderly to receive cash instead.
Hong Kong consumer watchdog: be careful about purchases through e-consumption voucher scheme
“The most common complaint we’ve heard is that the sum is too little. Many said they used up the HK$2,000 in a week or two,” said Chan Po-ming, a member of the party’s central committee. “The next disbursement will only come in October. How can this help boost consumption?”
Pro-establishment groups, including the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), have since earlier this month been urging Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to promise another round of e-vouchers when she rolls out the last policy address of her five-year term on October 6.
The government announced the consumption voucher scheme in the budget in February. In general, permanent residents over the age of 18 are eligible and 6.93 million people registered for the scheme, which gave retailers and restaurants a boost in business and helped promote the wider use of digital payments.
The first HK$2,000 voucher was disbursed to more than 5.47 million residents via four designated electronic payment platforms from August 1. The second instalment will be paid out from October 1.
Officials previously forecast the initiative would contribute 0.7 per cent growth to GDP this year.
Chan, the Democrat, estimated the party’s proposals would only cost the government an extra HK$40 billion.
Douglas Tsang Tsz-ming, the party’s deputy spokesman for youth affairs, said the voucher scheme should be expanded to include students. He cited earlier research by the Consumer Council that found textbook prices had risen more than 2.4 per cent this year.
“Not to mention the need to buy new school uniforms and pay other school expenses, it will cost parents at least HK$5,000 to HK$6,000 for one child,” Tsang said.
According to the Education Bureau, about 850,000 children were enrolled in schools in the 2020-21 academic year. The total comprised 165,000 in kindergartens, 364,000 in primary schools and 329,000 in secondary schools. If each pupil was given HK$5,000, the total would be about HK$4.25 billion.
So Yat-hang, the party’s deputy spokesman for elderly affairs, urged the government to allow older residents to get the subsidy in cash.
“The voucher was disbursed via electronic payment platforms. But many senior citizens do not know how to use digital payments,” he said.
The pro-Beijing FTU also called for another round of e-vouchers during a consultation session with the chief executive earlier this month.
Former legislator Bill Tang Ka-piu on Monday said the federation would like the e-vouchers to be made a regular scheme. “It can help ease residents’ burden as well as boost the economy, and what is more, it has a cheer-up effect to make people happier,” he said.
Asked if the vouchers should cover schoolchildren, Tang said it was not a priority.
“It is more important for the government to take the opportunity to promote digital payment and educate people to adapt to it as we are promoting smart city development,” he said.
Tang added that e-vouchers should also be accepted for settling government bills such as tax.