It is very rare that parties from the pro-establishment camp and the pan-democratic camp see eye to eye on one matter, but they actually did that on Wednesday as they expressed dissatisfaction over the government’s budget proposals for the coming fiscal year.
Following the budget speech by Paul Chan Mo-po, most political parties, from the opposition as well as the pro-Beijing camps, criticized the financial secretary, accusing him of not doing enough in offering relief to citizens despite a record cash surplus.
Pro-establishment groups said that although the budget includes plans to invest for a better future, the benefits mainly go to the middle-class, and that scant resources have been allocated for the grassroots families.
Starry Lee Wai-king, who chairs the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the largest pro-establishment political party in the city, said the budget should have ensured that the public would get to share the economic benefits more evenly, focusing on people of different age groups across all social brackets.
The party’s lawmaker Leung Che-cheung vowed that DAB will keep working to have its proposals realized, including lowering the age limit for those eligible for the non-means-tested Old Age Allowance scheme, which stands currently at 70, and continuing the one-month rent waiver for public rental housing residents.
Projecting a surplus of HK$138 billion for the current financial year to March, Financial Secretary Chan announced in his budget speech Wednesday some one-off relief measures as well as proposals to boost spending on areas such as education, medical care and technology innovation.
But the proposals failed to satisfy most political parties and other groups.
While calling usage of surplus to invest in future development, including encouraging innovation, a correct move, Wong Kwok-kin, a lawmaker representing the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said it is a pity that no breakthroughs were seen in the areas of retirement protection and services for the elderly, while tax benefits went mostly to the middle-class.
Wong stressed that giving cash handouts to the public should be an option, and that he will continue urging the government to do so, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, described the budget as making those in more need actually get less.
Wu suggested that each taxpayer should be allowed to get at least a HK$6,000 tax refund, with the difference being paid by the government.
Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu slammed the budget plan as being devised by a government that has no idea as to how hard life has become for the common man.
The government should be focusing more on improving people’s livelihood and related issues, he said.
People Power’s lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, who is also a member of a group called Council Front, said the smaller parties in the pan-democratic camp in the Legislative Council will stand together and not endorse the budget when it is sent to Legco for approval.
Reaction to the finance chief’s budget proposals was mostly negative, but there were a few political figures who gave a thumbs-up overall.
That included New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who said the budget deserves a score as high as 80 since it covered a comprehensive range of areas.
That said, Ip suggested that the government needs to work harder to solve some long-term issues, including promoting social upward mobility among the youth and fostering a sense of national identity among the youngsters.
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