News / Asia

Hong Kong Cash Giveaway Seen as Misguided

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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid