Authorities should hand out consumption vouchers to Hongkongers and extra allowances to city’s underprivileged: 2 organisations
- Federation of Public Housing Estates says vouchers had benefited various industries and played a role in boosting the economy during the pandemic
- Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong highlights both middle and lower-class families face increased financial burden amid city’s slower-than-expected economic recovery
Authorities should consider providing handouts such as consumption vouchers to all Hongkongers and extra allowances to city’s elderly as well as underprivileged in this month’s budget, despite an expected deficit of HK$100 billion (US$12.8 billion), two organisations have said.
The Federation of Public Housing Estates and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) submitted separate petitions at government headquarters in Admiralty on Monday, a day after Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said most residents regarded such perks as ‘unnecessary’.
The federation said the government should continue the distribution of consumption vouchers as they had benefited various industries and played a role in boosting the economy during the pandemic.
“We understand the government needs to manage its finances carefully and ensure that expenditures do not exceed income, as it potentially deals with a significant fiscal deficit this year,” it said. “However, it is also necessary to balance the practical demands of society and stimulate economic development through some countercyclical measures.”
Among the relief measure recommendations put forth by the housing group included subsidising one month of rent for the city’ roughly 800,000 public housing tenants, increasing the child allowance and extending the rates concession from covering the first six months to the whole year.
The group also suggested the government repurpose the unused community isolation facilities at Kai Tak and Penny’s Bay, such as integrating the Kai Tak facility with the cruise terminal to provide studios, dormitories and hostels as a hub for cultural and tourism industries.
Other policy suggestions include increasing the minimum area of subsidised housing units to be larger than the current 280 sq ft and increasing the minimum living area of each public housing tenant to be greater than seven square metres.
Financial Secretary Chan will unveil his budget on February 28. He warned in December that the deficit was expected to exceed HK$100 billion, nearly twice as much as his estimate from last February.
On Sunday, he said that most of the feedback authorities collected during the budget consultation period indicated that large-scale easing measures were no longer necessary, while predicting the economy would be more stable this year owing to falling interest rates.
The DAB, the city’s biggest political party, also highlighted that both middle and lower-class families faced an increased financial burden amid the city’s slower-than-expected economic recovery following the full border reopening.
“With the government recording a significant fiscal deficit, it is necessary to strengthen expenditure control,” it said. “However, we believe that the government should still introduce various relief measures and initiatives beneficial to the well-being of residents from all walks of life in the new financial year while maintaining prudent financial management and implementing the principle of using resources where they are most needed.”
That could be done by offering an extra half-month allowance for comprehensive social security assistance and old age living allowance recipients, introducing a dedicated tax allowance, a tax break to hire foreign domestic helpers and avoid raising government charges for livelihood-related items.
Chan had earlier said he would review some public service charges that had not been adjusted for a long time and those based on a user-pays principle in a bid to boost revenue and balance the books.
The party also suggested the government ditch its three “spicy measures” for the property market – namely the special stamp duty, buyer’s stamp duty and new residential stamp duty – which has been in place for over a decade.