News / Asia

Hong Kong Cash Giveaway Seen as Misguided

TEXT SIZE - +

While much of the world worries about economic recession, Hong Kong's fiscal situation is one to envy.  The former British colony, which reverted to China's control in 1997, remains a booming port of capitalism.  Second quarter GDP growth this year was just below 10 percent.   Unemployment is under 3.5 percent.  There is so much money in the government coffers that next month, it will begin giving some it away.  All 6.1 million adult permanent residents are to receive 6,000 Hong Kong dollars (about $700 U.S.). But not all of the prospective recipients are rejoicing.  

These are some of the Hong Kong residents most in need of extra cash. Unable to afford soaring rents amid a shortage of public housing, they live in illegal units atop a ramshackle industrial building from which they face eviction by the government.

Lee Oi Lin is a former caretaker, now unable to work because of injuries.  She lives with a dog and a cat in an illegally-subdivided unit, a space the size of a closet, barely 4.5 square meters.

"There's so much talk in this building about moving to a nicer place. But 6,000 (Hong Kong) dollars is not enough.  To rent a place, you need two months down payment and one month's deposit plus the agent's fee, so it is four months rent up front to move into a decent place.  Here there is no down payment, deposit and all that.  We just pay 1,500 dollars and that is all. If I use my 6,000 dollars to rent, then I will not have enough money to eat," he said.

The 6,000 Hong Kong dollars ($700 U.S.) giveaway was announced earlier this year by Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Donald Tsang.  He has followed that now with a revival of a program for subsidized home ownership for low and middle income earners. "We are not optimistic about global economic prospects next year. We may see inflation and recession come one after the other. In response to this, we will implement short-term measures to ease the burden on the grassroots," he said.

While the scheme is aimed at addressing the housing shortage and high rents, critics say the subsidies and handouts are unlikely to reverse the declining popularity of Tsang's administration.

Among such skeptics is the leader of the opposition Civic Party, lawyer and lawmaker Alan Leong. "To his disappointment and dismay his popularity has not gone up as a result of this cash handout.  And this, I think, is explained by the frustration being felt by Hong Kong people that this administration is not doing things for the long-term good of Hong Kong," he said.

Some critics are predicting that the cash handouts could further fuel Hong Kong's inflation which has surged to its fastest pace in 15 years. "But the government has come up with this idea that if you decide to collect the 6,000 (Hong Kong dollars) over a longer period of time you can earn interest of, I think, 200 (Hong Kong) dollars by collecting that a year later.  So that may be seen as a measure to actually deal with this possibility of inflation being fueled. How effective it is is yet to be seen.  But we are, in fact, worried," he said.

The rising costs worry residents in the tiny, illegal units atop this gloomy old Kowloon garment factory. They say while the world may envy Hong Kong's success and cash surplus, the only thing they see trickling down to them is the rain through the leaky roof.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid