Paul Chan's sweeteners leave a bitter taste

February 27, 2019 15:38
Financial Secretary Paul Chan delivers the 2019-20 budget at the Legislative Council on Wednesday. Photo: ISD

Call it sugar-light candy.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po's budget for the coming fiscal year is not as sweet as his first one. 

As to be expected, Hong Kong citizens, both online and offline, are unhappy with his speech, although they were not expecting much, considering that the budget surplus is just HK$58.7 billion, down from a record HK$138 billion last year.

The outlook is not too bright, according to Paul Chan, citing the ongoing US-China trade war and the slowing mainland economy. So there's reason to tighten our belts.

Those who belong to the "sandwich class" like I do feel left out again. It's good we've got a 75 percent tax rebate like last year, but the limit was reduced to HK$20,000 from HK$30,000.

Ditto for the land tax. Last year the lucky homeowners got a rates waiver of HK$2,500 per quarter. This coming year the waiver will be reduced to HK$1,500 per quarter.

If you are a needy senior citizen, you will get less welfare payments: the extra allowance under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance will be equivalent to one month, down from two months, although your medical coupons have been raised by HK$3,000 to HK$8,000.

Students are getting more subsidies. There's also a 25 percent traffic rebate, which, by the way, is not much, judging from the facial expressions of those checking their credit balance on the MTR machine.

As the financial secretary said, the economic outlook is uncertain, so we need to be prepared if the situation turns worse.

He knows our fiscal reserves are steadily growing, to HK$1.18 trillion in the coming fiscal year, but we cannot just spend it left and right.

Where do you think we will get the money to realize the Lantau Tomorrow Vision, and all those mega infrastructure projects to bring us closer to the mainland and the Greater Bay Area?

Sorry, guys, but we'll see each other more often at McDonald's.

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EJ Insight writer