demand for universal pensions in Hong Kong

There is a lot of news in Hong Kong papers today on the demand for removing means-tests from the proposed Old Age Living Allowance.

Here is one article:

An angry crowd of more than 1,000 people [many of them in wheelchairs], including the elderly and their families, marked Senior Citizens Day yesterday by accusing the government of failing to give a commitment to the long-awaited universal pension scheme.

Their anger did not let up even as top officials reiterated that the Legislative Council should pass the proposed Old Age Living Allowance as soon as possible and that the handout – which as it stands would be subject to means testing – was not a substitute for a future universal pension scheme. ….

Organisers demanded that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying put the establishment of a universal pension scheme on the agenda of his first policy address in January, and establish a select committee to study the issue.

“I hope a timetable to introduce a universal pension scheme will come forward soon,” said Lai Yuen-mei, spokeswoman for the Alliance [for Universal Pensions]. The Old Age Living Allowance could be an intermediate step towards a universal pension, if it was not means-tested, she added.

Johnny Tam and Jolie Ho, “Elderly in march for universal pension“, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), 19 November 2012.

And here is another:

This requirement for means-testing old people, particularly those over 70, is a serious departure from the existing non-means-tested old age allowance – nicknamed “fruit money” – payable at HK$1,090 (US$140) a month to people over 70. This has been for some 30 years a symbol of respect for elderly people who have paid their taxes and made Hong Kong what it is today.

Whatever the logic behind the new allowance, and however compassionate its intention, many who are opposed to the scheme consider it iniquitous as it stigmatises the poor by dividing the poor from the poorer – and the poorest. ….

Many regard this new [HK$2,200] allowance as a gift horse. As the saying goes, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Still, no matter how generous the allowance, merely throwing money at the poor will not necessarily make them feel good or rich. Those are states of mind, nourished by respect and cherished by love.

Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, “Old-age allowance debate continues“, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), 19 November 2012.

Novelist Elizabeth Wong (born 1937) was Secretary for Health and Welfare from 1990 to 1994 and a member of the Legislative Council from 1995 to 1997. She was born in Shanghai, holds New Zealand citizenship, and currently lives in Sydney, Australia.

HT Charles Knox.

Hong Kong elderly march for universal pension, 18 Nov 2012

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