Speech of the Hon KP Chan on the Motion on Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme (Synopsis)
• I welcome a key recommendation of the Policy Address on extending cross-district transport subsidy to become “work incentive transport subsidy” and helping low-income earners to meet part of their travelling expenses. In effect, the new scheme would provide assistance to the working poor who are ineligible to the CSSA. The Government has been understating the impasse of low-income workers. As the working poor are increasing in number, there appears an anomaly that those who are earning income are worse off than those who are receiving public assistance.
• I wish that this new measure signifies a change in the course of public policy on poverty from “welfare” to “work-fare” (i.e. combining work and welfare). The Government will provide assistance to people who are earning below benchmark income with a view to encouraging them to continue earning their living.
• The Singapore Government has reviewed practices of the welfare system in many places including the US and Hong Kong. A major finding of its study is that welfare-recipients should not receive more privileges than low-income earners. Otherwise, not only would the former be discouraged to seek employment, work ethics and attitudes of their second generation would be unduly distorted.
• The “Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme” is more than enlarging coverage to the whole territory. It signifies a meaningful policy change to “work-fare”. The Government is helping those who help themselves. In my view, the Government is sending a very positive signal to the public. I urge the Government to look into different measures of various countries in its study and tackle the issue of working poor with the new approach of “work-fare”.
• Apart from the sum payable, another key factor for the “Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme” to succeed is eligibility. Following the second round of quantitative easing in the US, Hong Kong is feeling further heat of imported inflation. Cost of living is getting high. I therefore support a proposal from colleagues in this Council that the income limit for the new subsidy scheme should be higher than the threshold of HK6,500 under the current scheme.