Scholars and students have mixed reactions to the latest budget address. Hong Kong’s latest budget did not offer cash handouts, as the Macau government has done in recent years.
Where newly appointed financial secretary Paul Chan Mo-po followed the path of his predecessor John Tsang Chun-wah was in handing out one-off sweeteners. It was a total of HK$35.1 billion, including cuts to salaries and profits taxes, a waiver of rates for a year, and an extra one-month payment for welfare recipients.
But many callers in a radio phone-in programme on Thursday criticised him for doing too little.
One caller, surnamed Wan, said: “You did talk about tax waivers, but the child allowance was not increased. I have two kids, and I only benefit from the waiver of rates this year. It’s a bit hard for me.”
Two callers slammed Chan for not giving out cash handouts, as the Macau government has done in recent years.
These are all measures that Tsang had adopted during his time as financial secretary, but Chan said they would not have been appropriate.
“We have increased our child allowance in recent years, so this year I am widening the marginal bands for salaries tax instead,” he said, adding that he did not believe in cash handouts.
Professor Raymond So Wai-man, the Dean of Baptist University’s School of Continuing Education, told Young Post that he agreed with Chan’s stance on not giving cash handouts. “Everyone has been asking for more benefits, but you can’t satisfy all of them. Cash handouts would only make people spend more and ask for even more in the future,” he says.
Young Post junior reporter Henry Lui, 17, from Sha Tin College is also against the cash handouts as he believes not everyone needs them. “The last HK$6,000 handout means nothing to billionaire Li Ka-shing, so it’s unfair if everyone has the cash,” he says.
But junior reporter Joy Lee, 14, says cash handouts are a good idea as they can stimulate the local economy. “However, if cash handouts are too high, people will rely on them and become lazier,” she says.
So also hoped that the budget address could subsidise other programmes, including associate degrees and top-up degrees at self-financing schools. His suggestions came after Chan’s budget address said it would only regularise the Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors (SSSDP) from the 2018/19 academic year, increasing the number of places from about 1,000 per group to 3,000.
In an interview with about 500 people on Wednesday, the University of Hong Kong found a budget satisfaction rating of 55.7 out of 100 – 1.5 down on Tsang’s budget a year ago. Chan’s popularity rating rose from 34 per cent two weeks ago to 47.4 per cent.