Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Monday, Apr 22, 2024

‘Empty talk’ or ‘balanced’? Reactions to Hong Kong’s latest budget blueprint

‘Empty talk’ or ‘balanced’? Reactions to Hong Kong’s latest budget blueprint

Critics point to inflation and pandemic setbacks suffered by underprivileged, argue HK$5,000 vouchers will have limited impact.

Hong Kong community leaders have dismissed the government’s latest budget blueprint as “hopeless for the needy” despite some lawmakers hailing it as a good allocation of resources.

The HK$5,000 (US$637) consumer vouchers for residents, a highlight of Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po’s speech on Wednesday, would hardly cover the rate of inflation and setbacks suffered by the underprivileged throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, they said.

Chan has set aside an annual budget of HK$174 million to support preschool children with special needs, but specialists in serving disadvantaged pupils argued the sum was far from enough and a long-term strategy to close gaps was still missing.

“There is nothing for low-income families to be happy about in this budget, as their needs weren’t addressed,” said lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen, a qualified social worker.

Chan earlier appealed for understanding and highlighted the economy’s contraction, but Tik disagreed. “The government has resources for targeted poverty relief measures, but this seems to be all talk now,” he argued.

Sze Lai-shan, deputy director of the Society for Community Organisation, which looks after many underprivileged families, recalled how those she spoke to reacted to Chan’s speech and quoted them as saying it was “the worst budget blueprint” delivered by the finance minister.

Her group has called for consumption vouchers worth HK$10,000. She said because of inflation and where the vouchers could be used – often at larger chains with marked-up prices – the HK$5,000 sum gave users less purchasing power than perceived.

She said she had hoped to see subsidies for electricity and the underemployed, but these did not materialise.

Viewers watch the budget address at SoCo offices in Un Chau, carrying protest signs.

Wong Man-ling, from the Alliance for Children Development Rights, said the government previously launched the Strive and Rise Programme to provide mentorship to underprivileged schoolchildren, but Chan had missed existing opportunities to expand the 3,000 quota to the rest of the 270,000 children and teens living in poverty.

She also said parents bore additional costs during the pandemic to prepare equipment for their children’s virtual classes, adding that the government should have considered a HK$1,000 subsidy to put them back on their feet.

There was also no financial aid to address medical problems that schoolchildren faced, including obesity and short-sightedness, she added. “The government should have dealt with it positively and it didn’t.”
Democratic Party chairman Lo Kin-hei.

The Democratic Party gave the latest budget address an “average” rating and said it lacked creativity and would do little to alleviate socio-economic problems faced by Hongkongers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Chairman Lo Kin-hei said he wished the consumption vouchers had been more generous and extended to cover those aged under 18 to lessen the financial burdens on parents.

The party earlier proposed HK$15,000 vouchers for Hongkongers of all ages.

“We know the government wants to make Hongkongers happy, but cash handouts would be the more direct way to achieve that, instead of holding carnivals – I believe most Hongkongers will find this measure confusing,” he said, referring to Chan’s “Happy Hong Kong” campaign to provide entertainment to residents to stimulate spending.

He also said: “What Hongkongers treasure the most is freedom, be it freedom of expression, or freedom to spend money.”

Election Committee lawmaker Doreen Kong Yuk-foon slammed the budget as “all empty talk, with nothing new”. She said there was a lack of substantial measures to alleviate burdens faced by the middle class and low-income residents.

“There’s really nothing for the middle class [in the budget], except for some tax relief. For the low income people, there’s the paltry sum of HK$5,000 or perhaps water bill subsidies, but there’s nothing else once these are disbursed. The impact is limited,” Kong said.

But lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said his party believed the budget was “well-adjusted and used resources properly”.

“The DAB believes this is a stable and responsible budget, it can strike a balance between maintaining financial stability, pushing economic recovery and relieving the suffering of people,” he said.

Lawmaker Gary Chan from the DAB.

Liberal Party lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai said the measure was a great help to the retail, food and beverage sectors, as well as to the transport and logistics industries.

The distribution of HK$5,000 vouchers in the first half of the year would be appropriate, he said. “We estimate that once society has returned to normal in the latter half of the year with tourists coming back, businesses would be able to make it on their own.”

The Hong Kong Committee for Unicef welcomed Chan’s initiatives on children’s and adolescent’s development, including IT‑related extra‑curricular activity subsidies for publicly-funded secondary schools.

It also praised efforts to provide inter‑disciplinary and school‑based comprehensive help to pre‑schoolchildren with varying levels of special needs but it appealed to the government to invest more resources into ensuring the mental well-being of children.

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce highlighted Chan’s emphasis on short-term relief.

“His multipronged approach to support citizens and SMEs to get through these last few months of recovery, while also keeping an eye on the long-term needs and paths of development, are to be lauded at this difficult time,” the chamber said.


Related Articles

Hong Kong News
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.