A lawmaker’s non-binding motion encouraging the Hong Kong government to set up a HK$100 billion “baby fund” has been rejected.

Pro-Beijing legislator Ann Chiang proposed setting up the fund on Wednesday. According to her plan, the government would provide a lump sum of HK$10,000 to each newborn baby in Hong Kong, deposited into a personal account.

Ann Chiang Lai-wan
Ann Chiang.

Every year, the government and the child’s parents would provide funding to the personal account at a 2:1 ratio. “If some families really have difficulties in supplying the funds, they can apply for an exemption,” said Chiang.

Chiang proposed that the account could be managed and operated by a government-created “baby fund personal account committee,” which would also be responsible for investing the accumulated funds.

The sum would be released when the person reaches 18 years of age but for three purposes only – education, purchasing property, or curing critical illnesses.

Chiang claimed that if each baby receives HK$6,000 in funding every year, and the account has a 3 per cent return on investment, they would accumulate more than HK$160,000 in funds by the time they are 18.

She provided several reasons for setting up the fund, including a low birth rate in Hong Kong, low morale among young people, and inter-generational poverty.

Students primary school

Civic Party legislator Alvin Yeung, however, cast doubt on whether taking money from parents every year for investment by a third party would actually benefit children. He likened the scheme to the mandatory provident fund (MPF), to which all Hong Kong employers and employees must pay a portion of their salary.

“According to last month’s survey, almost 60 per cent of workers are unhappy with the MPF system,” he said. “The public highly suspects that the government implements the MPF in order to protect the insurance industry and pass benefits to them.”

“Now legislator Chiang ignores all these voices and proposes forcing one more type of fund upon Hongkongers – isn’t this brave?”

On Thursday, only members of Chiang’s DAB party, the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, and localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai voted for the proposal. It was rejected in both the legislature’s geographical and functional constituencies.

See also: Hong Kong household income inequality rises to record high, census shows

In his concluding remarks, government labour chief Stephen Sui said that Hong Kong currently provides welfare to low-income families, as well as subsidies and loans for higher education.

“We think that the current methods are more targeted, and are a better use of limited public resources,” he said.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.