Govt to spend ex­tra HK$10 bil­lion to ad­dress liveli­hood is­sues

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By HE SHUSI and LI BINGCUN in Hong Kong Con­tact the writ­ers at hes­[email protected]­nadai­lyhk.com

The govern­ment of the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion will spend an ad­di­tional HK$10 bil­lion ($1.3 bil­lion) to re­lieve the hard­ship of se­nior res­i­dents and low­in­come fam­i­lies dur­ing the cur­rent eco­nomic down­turn.

Lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives for con­cerned groups wel­comed the govern­ment’s plans, de­scrib­ing them as an im­por­tant break­through that will en­able Hong Kong to bet­ter as­sist its grow­ing ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

An­nounc­ing 10 ini­tia­tives on Tues­day, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the pack­age of re­lief mea­sures is ex­pected to ben­e­fit over 1 mil­lion peo­ple and in­volves HK$10 bil­lion. The re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture will up by 2 per­cent as a re­sult. The time frame for the pro­grams’ ex­penses was not spec­i­fied.

Lam ex­plained that there is a prac­ti­cal need to im­prove Hong Kong peo­ple’s liveli­hoods dur­ing the re­ces­sion and so­cial un­rest.

Un­der the govern­ment’s pro­pos­als, the Nor­mal Old Age Liv­ing Al­lowance and the Higher Old Age Liv­ing Al­lowance will be merged; el­i­gi­ble Hong Kong res­i­dents aged 65 and above — about 560,000 peo­ple — will be en­ti­tled to this higher al­lowance.

The cap on the to­tal value of as­sets that an el­derly per­son can have to be el­i­gi­ble to apply for this al­lowance has been raised to HK$500,000,

Lam said. The new pro­gram will cost the govern­ment HK$5 bil­lion.

The SAR govern­ment also will lower the age thresh­old from 65 to 60 years old to be el­i­gi­ble to use pub­lic trans­porta­tion at HK$2 per trip. This will con­trib­ute an ex­tra HK$1.7 bil­lion to the govern­ment’s ex­penses, Lam said. An ad­di­tional 576,000 peo­ple will ben­e­fit.

To im­prove work­ing conditions, the govern­ment has pro­posed in­creas­ing the num­ber of statu­tory hol­i­days, or la­bor hol­i­days, from 12 to 17 days a year, Lam said.

Fur­ther­more, un­der the Manda­tory Prov­i­dent Fund Scheme, the govern­ment will pay the 5 per­cent manda­tory con­tri­bu­tions for em­ploy­ees with a monthly salary be­low HK$7,100 at an es­ti­mated cost of HK$600 mil­lion.

Since Au­gust, the govern­ment has launched four rounds of re­lief mea­sures worth about HK$24 bil­lion an­nu­ally to help peo­ple cope with eco­nomic hard­ship.

In a meet­ing with the press on Tues­day, law­maker Kwok Waike­ung from the Hong Kong Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions — the largest group rep­re­sent­ing the city’s la­bor sec­tor — praised the new mea­sures.

To en­sure their ef­fi­cient im­ple­men­ta­tion, Kwok sug­gested the govern­ment sim­plify the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­ce­dures. This will not only im­prove peo­ple’s will­ing­ness to apply for them, but also re­duce the govern­ment’s ad­min­is­tra­tive costs.

At an­other press meet­ing, law­maker Holden Chow Ho-ding from the Demo­cratic Al­liance for the Bet­ter­ment and Progress of Hong Kong also ex­pressed sup­port for the ini­tia­tives, say­ing some of them were innovative and visionary.

To of­fer timely sup­port, he urged the govern­ment to re­veal more de­tails of th­ese mea­sures and a spe­cific timetable for im­ple­men­ta­tion as early as pos­si­ble.

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