Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po offered an apology after citizens bewailed on social media the chaotic procedure for applying for the government’s HK$4,000 cash handout for poor people.
Chan admitted that the government deserved the criticism from the public during a question-and-answer session hosted by artiste Wong Cho-lam and streamed live on Facebook, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chan said he launched the live event on Sunday afternoon to dispel the notion that top officials were out of touch with the people and to gather their views for the 2019-20 budget speech, which he is scheduled to deliver on Feb. 27.
However, many netizens used the occasion to express their discontent with the chaotic procedure for the cash handout that qualified people have to go through before they could receive the benefit.
They slammed the government for failing to offer an online application service despite its avowed goal to make Hong Kong a smart city.
Apologizing several times during the live streaming, Chan said the government has learned a lesson from the incident and promised to provide more convenience to the people in the future.
Asked why the government didn’t just follow the system used in 2011 when it handed out HK$6,000 to each permanent resident, and allowed people to apply online, the financial chief explained that officials were concerned this time that there would be privacy issues, RTHK reported.
Aside from the cash handout, the public also asked if there will be another cash giveaway for the next fiscal year which starts on April 1.
Chan did not respond to the question directly but pointed out that the budget surplus for the coming fiscal year is likely to be only a third of that for the current year, implying there will be no cash handouts.
A cash handout to all citizens, in fact, has not been consistent with the administration’s new fiscal philosophy, he said.
Asked why the government is so fussy about giving away free cash to the public but plans to spend since tens of billions of Hong Kong dollars on several mega projects, Chan said giving cash to everyone involves an amount that is about HK$10 billion more than that put in a specific project, adding that the excess is enough to build a children’s hospital.
On speculation that rent control measures will be reintroduced, Chan made it clear that the government will not do so, adding there will also be no measures like waving of rents and electricity bills for people living in public rental homes.
As of 2:45 p.m. Monday, Chan’s live streaming event received about 3,000 “angry” emojis. In comparison, there were only 148 “like” emojis.
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