21 March 2019
DAB chairperson Starry Lee noted that the government is expected to record a surplus of at least HK$150 billion in the current fiscal year ending March. Photo: HKEJ
DAB chairperson Starry Lee noted that the government is expected to record a surplus of at least HK$150 billion in the current fiscal year ending March. Photo: HKEJ

DAB suggests half of budget surplus be used for relief measures

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the city’s largest pro-Beijing political party, has called on the government to utilize the budget surplus to provide relief measures for the public, including the salaried class and senior citizens.

Lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king, who chairs the party, said a conservative estimate shows the government may have a surplus amounting to HK$150 billion in the current fiscal year that ends in March.

Given such huge net income, the government should use half of that money to make people’s lives better, Lee said.

After submitting a total of 139 suggestions regarding next fiscal year’s budget to Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in late 2017, the DAB again submitted to him on Wednesday 35 more suggestions in relation to spending proposals.

One of them was 100 percent exemption of salaries tax and personal income tax for the 2017-18 fiscal year with a cap set at HK$40,000, and an increase in child allowance to HK$132,000, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Meanwhile, multiple benefits were recommended for senior citizens, including a suggestion that the government should deposit HK$3,000 in each of their health care voucher accounts with no limited period of use, as well as adjusting the lower limit of the age to which the vouchers are applicable to 60.

Also, people aged 60 or above should be allowed to enjoy a concessionary fare of HK$2 per trip when taking public transportation, the DAB said in its proposals. At present, only those aged 65 or above get that benefit. For people below 65, the benefit is offered only to those covered under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme and have 100 percent disabilities, plus those covered under the Disability Allowance.

Lawmaker Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, DAB vice-chairman and a non-official member of the Executive Council, said the emergency alarm system (EAS) for senior citizens has won huge praise and the government should therefore equip all of those aged above 65 with the EAS, that features 24-hour call and care service at their homes, for free.

To help citizens have their own properties and ease the financial burden for owners, the DAB proposed a waiver of stamp duty and mortgage insurance premium for first-time home buyers of units worth HK$8 million or less.

Among other recommendations, the party said the government must support the local media entities that have secured broadcasting rights of the 2018 FIFA World Cup so as to create a situation where the matches can be shown on free TV channels.

Asked whether it would be even better to distribute part of the surplus directly to the public in cash, Lee said the government should focus on measures beneficial to the public, although she thinks cash distribution is worth considering if the surplus turns out to be very big.

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