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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs