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2023-01-23 HKT 17:02
Unionist lawmakers on Monday sent a Lunar New Year greeting and an array of budget demands to Financial Secretary Paul Chan, with more spending vouchers and a boost to Hongkongers' retirement savings among their suggestions.
Chan delivers his budget next month, with many parties urging the minister to offer measures to boost the SAR's economic recovery and help grassroots families as the Covid pandemic subsides.
The Federation of Trade Unions wrote to Chan urging him to introduce what it called a "livelihood consumption voucher" – which would differ from previous rounds of spending vouchers because it could be used by citizens to meet their basic needs.
Bill Tang, a lawmaker from the party, said people would be able to put the $10,000 handout towards daily expenses including electricity and water bills, as well as rent.
“Even if people have a job, the wage is not sufficient for them to cope with the increasing serious inflation,” Tang said, citing surging electricity costs and food expenses.
“The key now, is for the society to build a better relationship with the government and build mutual trust, which means if citizens have demands, then the government will listen and execute,” he added.
Party members also said they believed the vouchers would stimulate local consumption, boost the economy, and even increase the use of digital payments.
Chan said on Sunday he was still pondering whether to issue further consumption vouchers, saying some parties were in favour but others were concerned about the effect on public finances. The administration handed out $10,000 vouchers last year for use at local stores, catering outlets or service providers, and their online platforms.
Meanwhile, the FTU members said workers were losing out because of the poor performance of their compulsory retirement savings accounts, saying some employees had seen years' worth of MPF contributions wiped out.
Another legislator from the party, Kingsley Wong, said Chan could take reference from its investment scheme for senior citizens, known as Silver Bonds.
“We hope the government can take reference from the Silver Bond, which has a four percent guaranteed interest rate. We hope the government can launch an MPF system that offers a guaranteed interest rate that is one percent higher than the inflation rate,” Wong said.
Earlier this month, the MPF Schemes Authority announced that the retirement scheme saw its second-worst performance on record last year, losing each member an average of $40,100.
The government has launched seven batches of Silver Bonds in recent years, allowing residents aged 60 or above to invest up to $1 million each in government securities that pay interest at a rate linked to inflation, with a minimum of 4 percent for the most recent offering.