Lawmakers want cash handout tackled separately for quicker nod

February 27, 2020 11:14
Lawmakers said the public may have to wait until summer for the release of the HK$10,000 cash handout unless the proposal is tackled separately from other items in the budget. Photo: HKEJ

Lawmakers from both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps want the HK$10,000 cash handout to be decoupled from other items in the 2020-2021 budget for quicker approval so that the public can receive the money as soon as possible.

In his budget speech given on Wednesday, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po proposed HK$10,000 cash assistance to all Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 or above “with a view to encouraging and boosting local consumption on the one hand, and relieving people's financial burden on the other”.

The one-off measure, which involves an expenditure of about HK$71 billion, is expected to benefit about seven million people, but it may take some time before the money can be disbursed because the proposal, along with other items in the latest budget, will have to be scrutinized by the Legislative Council.

The 2020-21 Appropriation Bill will first be considered in a special meeting of the Legco's Finance Committee before it goes through second and third reading, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The Legco has arranged for the budget to be deliberated and scrutinized in two meetings scheduled for April 22 and 29, but lawmakers voiced concerns that the cash would be handed out too late, thus defeating the purpose of easing the people’s financial burden.

As such, the lawmakers want the waiting time to be shortened so that the cash handout can be distributed at the earliest possible time.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said if the measure has to go through the entire process the Legco has set for the budget, it will have to wait at least six months before it can be approved.

So Yeung is suggesting that the government separate the measure from other items in the budget by proposing it to the Legco’s Finance Committee directly.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick of the Council Front said the cash handout should not be tackled along with the proposed funding for the police force, noting that putting them in the same package is tantamount to hold members of the public hostage.

Raymond Chan Chi-chuen of the People’s Power stressed that he is not willing to give up the power to scrutinize the other funding proposals, and demanded separating the cash handout from other items in the budget.

Gary Chan Hak-kan, vice-chairman of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), also wants the Finance Committee to directly handle the approval for the cash handout, given that lawmakers across parties agree with the proposal.

Should the pan-democratic lawmakers filibuster the budget bill during the deliberation, the whole process may drag on until June or July, which means the public will have to wait until the summer to receive the HK$10,000 they are entitled to, the DAB's Chan said.

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