Date
17 October 2018
Members of the public are eagerly awaiting the budget proposals for the next financial year, which will be unveiled by Financial Secretary Paul Chan on Wednesday. Photo: HKEJ
Members of the public are eagerly awaiting the budget proposals for the next financial year, which will be unveiled by Financial Secretary Paul Chan on Wednesday. Photo: HKEJ

Cash handouts not for all; budget may target specific groups

The government will not hand out cash to all citizens as some people have been urging it to do, although the budget surplus for the current fiscal year is said to be as much as HK$140 billion, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing an unnamed source. 

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po is scheduled to unveil on Wednesday the government’s budget proposals for the next financial year that will begin on April 1.

While the massive amount is 8.5 times the HK$16.3 billion projected in the budget announced last year, the government has ruled out cash handouts to the public “without purpose” and “without policy”, according to the source, who said it will provide support to specific groups instead.

The target groups include students from poor families, with each of these students who receive allowances based on the means testing mechanism to be given a one-time grant of HK$2,000 in cash.

The number of qualified students, including those in kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and universities, is estimated to be several hundreds of thousands and they are expected to get the cash in the 2018-19 academic year that will begin in September.

The one-month rent waiver for residents of public rental housing will be canceled, while the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, Old Age Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance, and Disability Allowance will continue, the source said.

As for taxes, the source revealed the government will not adjust the rates of salaries tax but the salary earners’ allowances for their parents and children are possibly to be raised, adding that the upper limit set for salaries tax refund could be increased to about HK$30,000 from HK$20,000 at the moment.

The source also said Chan decided not to inject some of the surplus into the Future Fund that was set up on Jan. 1, 2016 to meet the needs of potential expenditures resulting from the aging population trend, just like he did last year.

Separately, Ip Kin-yuen, a lawmaker representing the education sector, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hinted at a Lunar New Year luncheon on Monday that spending on education would be increased, and that related measures may be mentioned in the budget plan.

Ip hoped the budget would realize Lam’s pledge after she took office last year to divert an extra HK$5 billion into education annually. This would mean another HK$1.4 billion after HK$3.6 billion was allocated for the purpose in July last year.

Curtis Ng, conveyor of the budget proposals sub-committee at the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said he was also not in favor of cash handouts, and advised the government to focus on the elderly, the disadvantaged and those in need of long-term medical care.

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