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Commission on Poverty convenes 13th meeting

     The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, chaired the 13th meeting of the Commission on Poverty (CoP) this afternoon (August 20).

     At today's meeting, the research team led by Professor Nelson Chow presented the findings of the study report on retirement protection. Upon the request of the CoP in March 2013, the Central Policy Unit commissioned the research team from the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of the University of Hong Kong led by Professor Chow to conduct the study. The team completed the study recently. The findings were presented for the first time to the CoP for discussions today.

     The CoP expressed its heartfelt gratitude for the strenuous efforts made by Professor Chow and his team in the past year, adding that the study had provided a useful reference for future discussion on retirement protection. The CoP noted that the study was conducted by the team independently and no directional guidance or concrete proposals had been suggested by the Government. To enable the general public to have a better understanding of the subject and to maintain the transparency of the CoP's work, members agreed to release the report in full and the entire report will be uploaded to the Internet for the reference of the public.

     After receiving a briefing from the team, the CoP and the team exchanged views on the report. Some members pointed out that the community should consider seriously whether the fundamental direction to improve retirement protection should be to introduce a new universal non-means-tested scheme with a uniform payment level or to build on the existing system to direct public resources to help the elderly most in need through means tests.

     Members also expressed concerns over the impact of improving retirement protection on public finances and the question of who should foot the bill. Some members were concerned that increasing public expenditure to improve retirement protection benefits would worsen the Government's fiscal position and would further advance the anticipated structural deficit as a result of an ageing population. Some members also highlighted the controversies involved in raising tax or requiring additional contributions by employers and employees to finance new proposals. They considered that additional contributions by employers and employees would be tantamount to a form of taxation. As for transferring the current contributions from the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme as a financing option, members expressed concern that this would undermine the function of the MPF Scheme as a pillar of retirement protection and that this was not viable. In addition, members noted it would be unlikely that the universal non-means-tested proposals covered in the report would be financially sustainable in the longer run.

     Given that retirement protection is a highly complex subject which would affect all Hong Kong people and have far-reaching impact on the fiscal sustainability and socio-economic developments in Hong Kong, members agreed that it has to be taken forward prudently and that more time is needed to examine the report and discuss relevant issues in depth. The CoP considered that further meetings should be convened as soon as possible to discuss the report compiled by the research team and related issues in further detail.

Ends/Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Issued at HKT 20:04


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