Joshua Lee, 18, Cardiff University, Britain
This year, the Hong Kong government reported a budget surplus of HK$92 billion. When he was financial secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah underestimated the city’s budget surplus almost every year, and collected money from people through taxation when he shouldn’t have done so. This means the government has a lot more money than it really needs to cover costs. So, it only makes sense that they give some of the “loot” back to our hard-working people.
A one-off cash handout would be beneficial to a large number of Hongkongers, because it would help ease their financial problems. Although a handout – similar to the HK$6,000 “gift” offered by Tsang in 2011 – would not be enough to cover the year’s rent or mortgage payments, it would provide some relief for people in terms of their living costs, which are among the highest in the world. In addition, people could spend their handouts on leisure activities which would help reduce stress and improve family relationships.
The hand-outs would also help to redistribute the wealth and reduce the income gap. The budget surplus largely comes from tax-payers with relatively high incomes, wealthy corporations, and the sale of government land. Ultimately it belongs to the people of Hong Kong. Given that government reserves are expected to reach HK$952 billion by 2018, it is only fair that Hong Kong people get their money back to spend on whatever they want. It’s better than the government keeping the money and spending it on construction and other projects that won’t benefit the city’s ordinary people. Therefore, I believe the Hong Kong government should give annual cash handouts to all citizens aged over 18.
Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari, 16 , Li Po Chun United World College
Annual cash handouts may seem like a bonanza to many – in fact, they are. People may be happy that the government could be willing to give them some money which can be spent on shopping, food or a holiday. Ideally they should save some of it for a rainy day, but it is hard to do so when you are given free money.
The Hong Kong government would have to establish a criteria for the handouts. There are seven million people here and 62.7 per cent of them are over the age of 18. It is simply impractical to give handouts to such a large number every year.
On the other hand, if cash handouts are given only to permanent residents over the age of 18, it would be unfair because not everyone in Hong Kong would benefit. Then those who have lived in Hong Kong for less than seven years would lose out and this could lead to social conflict. For example, expats who pay their taxes deserve to get the cash handout.
I believe that the main reason behind cash handouts is to bridge the wealth gap in Hong Kong – a serious problem faced by society today. But, unfortunately, cash handouts won’t solve this problem. There are other ways to tackle the city’s income gap, for example, by building more public housing, making rent more affordable, and improving our welfare services. Hongkongers should not expect the government to give any more cash handouts.