22 January 2020
Reactions to the 2019-20 budget proposals announced by Financial Secretary Paul Chan (inset) on Wednesday have largely been negative among lawmakers. Photos: Bloomberg, HKEJ
Reactions to the 2019-20 budget proposals announced by Financial Secretary Paul Chan (inset) on Wednesday have largely been negative among lawmakers. Photos: Bloomberg, HKEJ

Lawmakers show little support for Paul Chan’s budget

The government’s budget proposals for the coming fiscal year have not won much support from political groups, with most lawmakers, including those from the pro-Beijing camp, saying they will need to think about their stance when it comes to voting on the planned measures.

In his budget speech on Wednesday, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po slashed “sweeteners” and scaled back relief measures for 2019-20, justifying the move by pointing out that the budget surplus could drop further this year and that there are uncertainties surrounding the economy.

In light of the concerns, Chan announced salaries tax rebate of 75 percent, the same as last year, but lowered the ceiling to HK$20,000 from the previous HK$30,000 offer.

As for property, while the government is to waive rates for four quarters, the ceiling will be set at HK$1,500 per quarter for each rateable property, down from HK$2,500 last year.

Also there won’t be any cash handout to the public.

The budget proposals failed to draw vocal support from lawmakers and political parties, barring a few such as Dr. Pierre Chan Pui-yin, a legislator who represents the medical functional constituency and has no political affiliation, and the New People’s Party (NPP), which is headed by veteran lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

Pierre Chan and NPP expressed support for the proposed budget, which requires the Legco’s approval, while other lawmakers and major parties had reservations, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Pierre Chan said he find the proposed budget satisfactory as the government has signaled that it is committed to providing more funding to improve the healthcare system.

As for Ip, she stressed that her party will not cast a negative vote on the budget, though it may offer some suggestions.

Among others, lawmaker and Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said bluntly that the budget proposals failed to convince him to endorse the plan. Civic Party will propose amendments, he said.

The Democratic Party criticized the budget for overweighting the development of the Greater Bay Area and lacking sufficient focus on livelihood matters.

If there is no cash handout, endorsing the budget would prove difficult, said the party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, outlining his plan to vote against the budget.

Among other political figures, all of the six lawmakers from Council Front labeled the budget as a failure, but they did not reveal their voting inclination clearly.

Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan said the government can do more for the commercial sector.

The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the largest pro-establishment political party in the city, said it would need to hold an internal discussion before deciding whether to back the budget.

DAB Lawmaker Steven Ho Chun-yin, pointed out that since no measures were proposed in the budget to benefit agriculture and fisheries, the industry segments represented by him, he would need a lot of courage to cast a ‘yes’ vote.

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