Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced that the scope of the transport subsidy scheme will be expanded after taking into consideration public demand.
Under the new non-means tested scheme introduced in Lam’s October policy address, the government will provide 25 per cent of Octopus card transport expenses over HK$400, subject to a cap of HK$300. For example, if a commuter spends HK$500 on transport, they will receive HK$25.
However, some groups expressed concern that the scheme will benefit cross-border parallel traders, while others called for the scope to be expanded.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the Executive Council session on Tuesday, Lam said: “So long as the relevant operators are willing to follow some specific operating requirements… we will expand the scheme to four other transportation modes.”
The four additional transport modes that will be covered include: residential and employee buses, red minibuses, and motorised ferries. The requirement is that the operator has to use a Octopus card reader system.
Lam said that the 2.2 million Hong Kong people are expected to benefit from the scheme, with expenses estimated to reach HK$2.3 billion.
The scheme will be handed to the relevant Legislative Council committee, and then to the finance committee for funding. Lam said that the government is aiming for the scheme to be implemented within a year: “Since this is a plan that has received widespread support from the public and society, of course I hope that it will be passed in Legislative Council smoothly,” she said.
“However, if you look at history, that may not necessarily be the case. There are a lot of government funding proposals that have been welcomed by the public, but… generally the [opposition lawmakers] – harbouring some other discontent, they will use the legislative proceedings… as a punching bag,” Lam said.
The pan-democratic camp held a protest outside the Legislative Council on Monday evening to protest pro-Beijing lawmakers’ attempts to change the legislature’s procedural rules. The proposals are aimed at curbing the opposition’s filibustering efforts. The demonstrators were removed around midnight and the camps were cleared.
Lam said she was concerned about the lack of order and efficiency in the legislature but, as the executive branch, they respected amendments made at the LegCo.
Referring to the amendment of the Rules of Procedure, Lam said: “The Legislative Council President has to make rulings so that the matter will be dealt with by the Legislative Council. After this, hopefully there will be more peaceful and orderly [legislature meetings] to handle all the issues I’ve just mentioned.”
Democrats fear that the amendments may rob them of the power to block legislation and prevent them from forming certain investigative committees. However, they do not hold any veto power in the chamber to prevent the changes.