Financial Secretary Paul Chan has announced a HK$10,000 handout for all permanent residents over the age of 18. During his budget speech at the legislature last Wednesday, Chan said he hoped to relieve financial burdens and boost consumption in view of the economic downturn. The handout will likely take place weeks before the city’s legislative elections in November, though the full details have yet to be announced.
It is not the first time the authorities have doled out cash to citizens. In 2011, the government gave out cash handouts of HK$6,000 to all permanent residents and, in Macau, handouts take place on a regular basis. The sum on offer for the 2020 scheme is significantly higher than previous offerings but, for most Hongkongers, it barely covers a month of rent. HKFP examines what else HK$10,000 can buy you in today’s Hong Kong.
HKFP estimates that HK$10,000 will buy you:
- A month of rent for a 200 square-foot loft apartment in Mong Kok, according to spacious.hk.
- Over 2,000 meals for people in need, according to charity Feeding Hong Kong.
- Six nights at a five-star hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, according to booking.com.
- Two low-season return trips from Hong Kong to London on direct flights with Economy seats, according to agoda.com.
- One iPhone 11 with HK$4,000 left over.
- 14 months of gym membership.
- 40 drop-in yoga classes.
- 50 weekend dinners.
- 496 Big Macs from McDonalds.
- 250 cups of regular coffee.
- 270 packs of toilet rolls – 10-packs.
- 200 packs of rice weighing 8 kilograms each.
- 20 tickets to the currently-closed Ocean Park.
- 714 cans of luncheon meat.
- 14 pairs of mid-range running shoes.
- 17 3M 6800 full-face respirators, as used by protesters. Or 55 pairs of 3M 60926 filters.
Prices of face masks have been fluctuating since the outbreak of Covid-19. With HK$10,000, one could have purchased just 20 boxes – containing 50 – on February 7, when masks were in high demand.
By late February, as supply situation eased a little, one would still be able to purchase only 60 boxes of surgical masks with the cash handout. Before the coronavirus crisis, HK$10,000 would have purchased 170 boxes.
Though a speedy distribution was promised, pro-democracy netizens were not impressed with Chan’s handout scheme.
The Citizens’ Press Conference – founded during the anti-extradition protest movement – wrote that consumption drives Hong Kong’s economy. They made a suggested shopping list for Hongkongers: “HK$1,000 for face masks and respirators, HK$1,000 donation to Spark Alliance and 612 funds, HK$1,000 donation to media such as Stand News and InMedia, HK$1,000 to buy meal vouchers, HK$1,000 to support protesters in exile, HK$1,000 to go to local protesters in need, HK$1,000 for protest publications, HK$1,000 for union membership fee, HK$1,000 to support yellow economy, HK$1,000 for villain-hitting.”
In other reactions, a Facebook page named “Fight for Hong Kong Quotes” wrote: “You are indifferent to the HK$10,000 cash handout not because you are rich, but out of rage to our government.”
Netizens were quick to create memes and cartoons questioning the 25 per cent budget boost for the police.
The return of $10K to everyone only aims at covering the additional budget for the police in next financial year. pic.twitter.com/pnSktiJ8l1
— FU7371 (@fu7371) February 27, 2020
The text of one meme said: “‘HK$10,000 cash handouts.’… ‘What’s the catch?’… ‘Democrats have to first pass the pay raise proposal and HK$25.8 billion expenditure budget for the police force.’”
Though the pro-Beijing camp welcomed the sweetener, pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow was unimpressed: “Follow-up appointments at hospitals have been scary lately. May I have a safer living condition in exchange for the HK$10,000?”
Dr Alfred Wong, a member of the medical concern group Médecins Inspirés and a cardiologist who volunteered in the “dirty team” at Prince Wales Hospital, wrote: “How about I give up the HK$10,000 and you ensure that we have sufficient protective equipment? Or would you rather I offer HK$10,000 to you for a full border closure right now?”
Keen to take part in last week’s giveaways, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that top government officials will be donating one month of their salaries – totalling to HK$10 million – to the Community Chest for charitable purposes. The sum is the equivalent of cash handouts for 1,000 residents.
In all, the finance chief estimated that the one-off payout to seven million eligible residents would round up to HK$71 billion of taxpayers’ money.
HKFP estimates that the cost of Paul Chan’s one-off payout would be approximately equal to:
- a year’s recurrent funding for the Hospital Authority during 2020-21.
- 470 years of HKDSE examination fees.
- 38 months of rent for lower-income tenants in public housing.
- three times the annual estimated expenditure of the University Grant Committee.
- three times the annual HK$25.8 billion funding for the police force.
- 14 times the annual salary budget for Fire Services Department personnel.
- 71 times the annual estimated expenditure of public broadcaster RTHK.
- 10 times the annual financial assistance offered to working families and students.
- 1.7 times the annual HK$42 billion pensions budget.
- 86 per cent of the estimated recurrent expenditure for social welfare services.
- a third of the HK$200 billion earmarked for the first 10-year Hospital Development Plan launched in 2016.