Groundbreaking achievements have been made in poverty alleviation and other social welfare policies that the current government has prioritised, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said at the final Commission on Poverty Summit of the term on Saturday.
“If you do not mind, please allow me to use the term ‘groundbreaking’ to describe the bold actions taken by the current administration in such a short time,” he said, referring to the Old Age Living Allowance and the Low-income Working Family Allowance, which were both introduced under his current administration.
According to the Commission, 373,500 people were lifted out of poverty in 2015 after considerable resources were put into alleviating poverty during the current term of government. However, just under 1 million people still live below the poverty line.
“We broke ground by establishing the first ever official poverty line in Hong Kong,” Leung said. The official poverty line was established as a result of the 2013 Commission on Poverty Summit. Leung said “the line provided the public with an insight on the level of poverty within society and the affects of our [poverty alleviation] policies, as well as providing a means of tracking our own progress.”
Leung also said the provision of public rental housing played an important role in poverty alleviation.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chief Secretary and chair of the Commission, said she was optimistic about the future. However, she said that “due to changes in the population structure of Hong Kong, it would be difficult see an obvious and steady fall in the rate of poverty.” These changes include a population that is continuously ageing and a shrinkage in the workforce, both of which might offset the efforts of the Commission’s poverty alleviation policies, said Lam.
Lam also said that “employment was undoubtedly the best route out of poverty,” citing a notably lower rate of poverty among working households.
‘Grassroots organisations excluded’
The Summit was momentarily interrupted by “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, who shouted slogans and was consequently removed from the Summit.
“It was shameful that a Summit about poverty did not include grassroots as stakeholders to discuss how poverty could be alleviated,” he said, questioning why grassroots organisations were excluded from the Summit. “Why would you invite those who have never had a taste of poverty to discuss poverty alleviation?”