A vote in legislature of the Hong Kong government’s proposal of a means-tested Old Age Living Allowance (OALA) allowance of HK$2,200 [US$284] a month was deferred yesterday to Tuesday, 30 October. Yesterday’s South China Morning Post published the following article, which contains useful information.
The controversy over the old-age allowance arises from a row over plans to means-test applicants.
The pan-democrats want the government to waive the means test for those aged 70 and above, and the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong wants the asset cap, currently set at HK$186,000 [US$24,000], to be raised.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was standing firm yesterday. … [Ms Lam] said: “There is no room to adjust the requirement of income and asset declaration nor increase the income and asset caps.” ….
At yesterday’s meeting, Wu Kam-ping, a 75-year-old blind woman, told lawmakers: “I have savings of HK$230,000 [US$30,000] and it is my treasure.”
She said that she currently lived on the monthly disability allowance of HK$1,395 [US$180] and money given to her by two of her four children.
“I often have to see private doctors for incontinence. It costs around HK$600 each time. I don’t want to spend HK$40,000 of my savings just to meet the eligibility.”
Colleen Lee, “Vote on old age allowance deferred to sidestep showdown“, South China Morning Post, 26 October 2012.
Hong Kong residents with 100% disability, such as Wu Kam-ping, are eligible for a small benefit without a means test, regardless of their age. To access the higher OALA benefit requires passing an assets and income test in addition to an age test. Ms Wu is much older than the qualifying age of 65, but her modest savings make her ineligible for the proposed OALA.