Parties from across the political spectrum have urged the government to conduct public cash handouts, after Wednesday’s budget revealed the city has a predicted HK$138 billion surplus. The calls come despite the idea being rejected by Financial Secretary Paul Chan.

Though Chan has maintained that the government will give around 40 per cent back to the public via different means, there remain demands that taxpayers are given a more direct share.

New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip, a member of the government top advisory body Executive Council, previously did not support the idea of cash handouts – saying that tax rebates would be better. Following the budget, she made a u-turn on Friday.

Regina Ip
Regina Ip (left). Photo: New People’s Party.

She said the government should give HK$3,000 to permanent residents above 18 if they earn a monthly salary between HK$10,000 and HK$30,000, own no properties and do not have to pay salaries tax.

“This group of people have not benefited by the budget,” she said, adding that she has been receiving complaints from the public.

She said she expected that around 1.92 million people could benefit. The idea could cost around HK$6 billion.

Ip denied that her change of heart was related to the campaign of her party’s by-election candidate Judy Chan: “I suggested cash handouts in 2011 when there was no by-election,” she said.

Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin, another Executive Council member, also said people earning HK$10,000-30,000 per month had not benefited from the budget. He said he had an open attitude towards cash handouts.

Mixed cash handout plan

The Democratic Party suggested the government give HK$6,000 to the public, subject to deductions related to the amount of tax rebate they received.

The party said the government’s proposal of a maximum tax rebate of HK$30,000 would only benefit those with medium-to-high levels of income.

However, those on low incomes who do not have to pay tax would not benefit. Equally, they do not benefit from additional subsidies such as those from the Community Care Fund and the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme.

James To
James To. File Photo: In-Media.

Lawmaker James To said Ip’s plan was flawed as she ignored the around 830,000 people who pay less than HK$2,000 in salaries tax.

“The budget has completely forgotten about them,” To said.

The party also suggested not offering land rate concessions to properties owned by companies. To said the measure will save the government around HK$10 billion.

To and lawmakers Andrew Wan and Ted Hui protested as the finance chief arrived at a radio show on Friday morning.

Other candidates in the Hong Kong Island constituency include Au Nok-hin, Edward Yum and Ng Dick-hay.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.