Transcript of remarks by FS (with video)
Financial Secretary: I would like to recap the key points of my announcement just now in English. I announced the 2018-19 Budget in end-February and proposed an array of measures to share the fruits of our economic success with the community. Thereafter, there are views in the community that such measures could be enhanced to benefit more people. Their views are echoed by many LegCo members of different political parties. After careful consideration, I have decided to introduce a new caring and sharing scheme. An eligible person who does not pay salaries tax will receive $4,000, and one who receives tax concession will get the difference between $4,000 and the amount of the tax concession received.
Persons benefiting from the new scheme will include anyone who:
(a) is a Hong Kong identity card holder ordinarily resident in Hong Kong and attains the age of 18 on or before 31st December, 2018;
(b) does not own any property in Hong Kong;
(c) does not receive Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments, Old Age Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance or Disability Allowance; and
(d) either (i) declares that he or she does not pay tax for the 2017-18 year in Hong Kong, or (ii) presents a tax payment slip which shows that the tax concession received for 2017-18 falls below $4,000.
Our initial assessment is that around 2.8 million people may be eligible under the scheme, and the amount of payout is in the order of $11 billion.
We appreciate that there could be a small number of people who pay no tax and live in self-owned domestic properties that benefit less than $4,000 in rates concession; some of them may pay tax, but benefit less than $4,000 through tax and rates concession in aggregate. Under the new scheme, they can also apply for the balance.
The Working Family Allowance Office has been commissioned to implement the scheme. Eligible persons may submit application to the Office. Details will be announced by the Office as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the Budget has proposed to provide extra allowance, which is equivalent to two months of such allowance, to social security recipients. Recipients of such allowance, such as Old Age Allowance and Disability Allowance, will receive the difference between $4,000 and the extra payments received.
I believe with this scheme many more people will benefit directly from the Budget. The scheme also reflects our objective of building a caring and sharing community and sharing the fruits of economic success with the community. The Government will move committee stage amendments to the Appropriation Bill 2018 to seek funding to implement the above arrangements. Thank you.
Reporter: Secretary, did you bow to political pressure by announcing this scheme, and that you backtracked on your earlier saying that you prefer targeted measures and you didn't prefer tax handouts. And why $4,000? Would you be able to explain more on that?
Financial Secretary: Well, I said before, the Government - this term of Government - we would not give out cash handouts on an across-the-board basis. Any measures need to be targeted. The scheme that I just outlined is a targeted scheme, trying to seek to cover more people who may not be able to benefit directly from the various measures in the original Budget - the entire concept is that. And in fact, after the announcement of the Budget, I heard very clearly the views of the community, of course, including LegCo members, but the view of the community was loud and clear, and I think as government officials we need to have the capacity to step back and reflect (on) the various views expressed and see how we may be able to better serve our people. So this scheme, as announced, in our view is an effort to try to respond to the needs of the community in a proactive manner. As to the amount, $4,000, this is a balanced figure. I mean, over the past three weeks you have heard suggestions from different political parties on different amounts. On balance we do think that the current proposed amount of $4,000 is the right amount to proceed. Thank you.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Friday, March 23, 2018
Issued at HKT 17:35
Issued at HKT 17:35
Audio / Video
FS and SLW meet the media