Reports have emerged suggesting that the government may give cash handouts to low-income residents after its annual budget was criticised for excluding cash handouts amid a predicted HK$138 billion surplus.
Citing government sources, local media reported that the government may use the Community Care Fund to give cash handouts to those who are 18 and earning below the median wage of HK$15,500 per month.
Reports suggested various amounts between HK$2,000 and HK$4,000, but conclusive information has not yet emerged.
Asked about the reported handouts, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday that the government’s public finance situation was very healthy and recorded a large surplus last year. Thus, the government allocated large amounts to investing in the future and sharing with the public in the annual budget, she said.
“But we have to admit that when we developed measures to share with the public, maybe we have not been very comprehensive,” she said.
“We have been designing a more wide-ranging sharing scheme. But this is not equal to a city-wide cash handout. The Financial Secretary told me that he has reservations about cash handouts that do not have specific targets – to which I said that I support him publicly.”
Lam said she did not have information about the details.
Sing Tao Daily cited a source as saying on Thursday that those who receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, Low-income Working Family Allowance, or Old Age Allowance will not receive any handouts since the annual budget already allocated them extra benefits.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said the reported plan may indicate that the government no longer sees cash handouts as a taboo.
But he said the plan was still unfair when compared to the HK$30,000 tax rebate that a person earning HK$50,000 per month can receive.
“There should not be such a big difference,” he said. “Residents will still be angry.”
New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip, who is also a member of the Executive Council, welcomed the idea of cash handouts.
When asked to define low-income people on an RTHK radio programme, Ip said the simplest way was to use the median wage. However, she said residents who earn above the median wage also face pressure.
“Maybe they have children, they need to feed their parents – they may receive a very small tax rebate even if they earn HK$30,000 per month, and they have to pay rent – these people will not receive the benefit,” she said.
She suggested that there should also be cash handouts for those who do not have to pay salaries tax, as well as for those who receive fewer than HK$30,000 in tax rebates.