stumbling toward universal pensions in Hong Kong

Sad news from Hong Kong. What is the point of government consultation with voters, if government chooses to ignore dissenting views?

An official advisory commission on universal pensions, after three years of discussion and consultations, convened and released its Report on Thursday, 15 December. The Commission on Poverty of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) discussed the Report. LegCo is expected to retain a means-test for social pensions, even though the Report finds overwhelming public support for universal pensions.

According to a note posted on the official website of the Commission on Poverty (CoP), an English version of the advisory commission’s “Report on Public Engagement Exercise on Retirement Protection” will be available “soon”. In the meantime, here is a link to an article that summarizes the Report and the Hong Kong government’s negative reaction to it.

The government is likely to propose a means-tested pension plan in the policy address next year, members of an official advisory commission said after a meeting yesterday.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chairwoman of the Commission on Poverty, also prevented them from voting on a conclusion on universal pension, according to members. ….

The report released yesterday after the meeting revealed that a majority of the public supported the universal plan, in which every elderly person would get HK$3,000 [US$385] a month, instead of a means-tested one preferred by the government, where only those with assets of less than HK$80,000 [US$10,300] would get such an allowance.

“Many people hope more elderly people could benefit from the retirement protection scheme, not only the poorest of the elderly, but also [those] whose assets exceed limits of subsidy schemes,” the report said. The government had explicitly said it preferred the latter option and had “reservations about the ‘regardless of rich or poor’ principle” of any universal retirement plan.

The report showed that of 18,365 submitted written opinions, about 90 per cent, or 16,830, were in favour of universal pension. ….

Former lawmaker and Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood chairman Frederick Fung Kin-kee said he had suggested at the meeting that members vote to decide whether the commission would back or oppose universal pension, but Lam had not allowed it, saying the government had already heard their views and would make its own conclusion.

“We have done so much work these three years,” he said. “Now … whatever decision the government will make in the future is none of the commission’s business. I feel this is irresponsible.”

Shirley Zhao and Peace Chiu, “Hong Kong government ‘likely’ to propose means-tested pension plan, says advisory commission“, South China Morning Post, 16 December 2016.

 

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