Date
24 August 2017
Carrie Lam (inset) was tight-lipped when asked about reports that the government tried to pressure a consultant into changing its report on universal retirement protection. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam (inset) was tight-lipped when asked about reports that the government tried to pressure a consultant into changing its report on universal retirement protection. Photo: HKEJ

Govt. denies pressure on consultant over pension study

The government is denying it instructed a consulting firm to alter the results of its final report on a universal pension scheme.

The Labor and Welfare Bureau (LWB) said the study carried out by SEE Network Ltd. was independent, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam was tight-lipped when asked by the media on Wednesday.

A spokesperson said the LWB received a draft of the report from SEE Network in September and views were exchanged which he described as a “normal interaction”.

In response to media inquiries, SEE Network director Patsy Cheng said the issue was a matter of “magnitude” and her company “stood up for what it should stand up for”.

Cheng refused to reveal the differences between the draft report in September and the one to be submitted on Friday but said the changes are “acceptable”.

There have been reports that the government requested to change the research methods and conclusion because it was not satisfied with the results.

One request was to change the approach from quantitative to qualitative.

The LWB reportedly asked that a separate report be written in order to endorse a “financial needs” approach to universal retirement protection, which is favored by the government, and that the report be published in the name of SEE Network.

The request was rejected by SEE Network, according to reports.

On Wednesday, Apple Daily, citing sources, reported that the government was not happy that the report by SEE Network quoted a large number of supporting views toward a universal pension scheme and requested those opinions be simplified.

The Commission on Poverty is set to discuss the report on Friday.

Commission member Cheung Kwok-che said Carrie Lam will need to respond to questions and address public concerns, according to Ming Pao Daily.

Cheung said that if the consulting company has finished the study, it should post the report on the internet for the public without any alterations.

The LWB tapped SEE Network as consultant on the study last November to record and analyze public opinions.

The six-month consultation ended on June 21 this year.

During the period, 110 consultation meetings and discussions were held, with a total of 18,000 suggestion forms received, including 15,000 from pension scheme advocates.

The Alliance of Social Welfare for Universal Pension criticized the government for having an established position on the issue.

Legislator Roy Kwong sought an official response from the government to remove any doubts from the public mind.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

EL/AC/RA

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