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Crisis talks on elderly cash

Winnie Chong

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The administration will hold a crisis meeting today with its strongest political ally, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, over the new old-age living allowance.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung will meet the pro-establishment group, which has the most members in the Legislative Council, to secure an 11th-hour deal and gain the party's support of the new HK$2,200-a-month old-age living allowance.

DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung announced the meeting as some pro-establishment lawmakers began to waver in their support.

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Tam said an earlier statement on raising the limit to HK$300,000 was only an example to show the government's HK$186,000 cap is too low.

But Tam refused to say if the DAB would vote against the allowance if the authorities rejected the demand.

Meanwhile, the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong is inclined to support the proposal. But one member, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, said it will be difficult for her to support the allowance in its present form and hopes the means test for the elderly, aged over 70, will be scrapped.

Industrial sector legislator Lam Tai-fai said he will decide after listening to various opinions at today's welfare services panel meeting.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai- chun, of the Kowloon East constituency, indicated he may not support the allowance.

Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun said the party will abstain unless the authorities can raise the asset limit to HK$500,000, as the proposed limit of HK$186,000 is unreasonable.

Legco's Finance Committee will vote on the proposed funding for the plan tomorrow.

A coalition of 23 pan-democrat lawmakers is opposed to the allowance, while the government can count on about 22 votes of support.


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