Date
23 March 2017
Nelson Chow and Carrie Lam (right) discuss the government's proposed retirement scheme on separate radio programs. Photos: HKEJ, HK Government
Nelson Chow and Carrie Lam (right) discuss the government's proposed retirement scheme on separate radio programs. Photos: HKEJ, HK Government

Top academic challenges govt retirement proposal

A retirement proposal by the Hong Kong government is under fire from a group of senior academics who are calling it unfair and a threat to the public interest.

They are threatening to boycott a government consultation and conduct their own, Ming Pao Daily reports.

Nelson Chow, an emeritus professor of social work and social administration in the University of Hong Kong (HKU), said his group of 66 scholars have a responsibility to inform the public, saying the figures quoted in official consultation documents are incomplete and inaccurate.

Chow and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam appeared on separate radio programs on Wednesday to discuss the proposal.

Lam accused Chow of being impractical, saying his group’s recommendations were “made casually” without the benefit of “serious academic research”.

She defended the government’s decision to raise the HK$80,000 (US$10,320) asset limit, saying it was made to facilitate discussion and was “not scientifically calculated”.

Lam said Chow’s proposal, which claims tax hikes would not be needed to support the retirement scheme, is impractical.

Chow said a HK$500 billion deficit forecast by the government from a universal retirement plan is meant to justify tax increases.

He said it is unfair and harms the public interest.

The government is clearly trying to torpedo any universal retirement plan that covers retirees “whether they’re rich or poor” before the public consultation is completed, he said.

Chow said he had never seen any official consultation documents before or after the government announced the proposal.

He said he had only met Lam once at a dinner since he submitted a report to the government in August.

But Chow said he is willing to meet with Lam to explain his proposal.

“It is worth considering, even if it means only 200,000 or 300,000 more seniors will benefit from the scheme,” he said.

Secretary for Labor and Social Welfare Matthew Cheung expects the retirement plan to be finalized by the fourth quarter next year in time for the 2017 policy address of the chief executive.

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