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Published: 15:15, November 29, 2023 | Updated: 15:17, November 29, 2023
Cuts in HK govt expenditure 'won't affect underprivileged'
By Wang Zhan in Hong Kong
Published:15:15, November 29, 2023 Updated:15:17, November 29, 2023 By Wang Zhan in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s labor and welfare secretary said on Wednesday that cash assistance provided under the social security system, including the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) and the Social Security Allowance (SSA) schemes, would not be affected due to a move to control the overall growth of government expenditure.

“The recurrent expenditure on social welfare has increased by 52.2 percent from HK$79.4 billion in 2018-19 to HK$121.0 billion in 2023-24, accounting for about 21.6 percent of the total estimated recurrent government expenditure,” Chris Sun said in his written reply to a related query in the Legislative Council.

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Stressing that the government, faced with the pressure on public finances, has to control expenditure, he said bureaus and departments are required to cut 1 percent recurrent expenditure allocation in 2024-25 and a further 1 percent in 2025-26 under the Productivity Enhancement Programme (PEP). 

The government has all along been committed to building a caring community and looking after the underprivileged.

Chris Sun, Secretary for Labor and Welfare, HKSAR

The objectives of the PEP are to control the overall growth of government expenditure and encourage bureaus and departments to provide greater room for internal reallocation of resources, improving existing services and implementing new services for achieving higher efficiency, he added.

“The amount of savings for the social welfare sector arising from the expenditure reduction program was approximately HK$280 million in 2022-23 while the government’s expenditure budget in social welfare increased by approximately HK$9 billion during the same period.”

Under the expenditure reduction program, the government did not reduce cash assistance provided under the social security system, Sun said, adding that certain expenditure items, such as foster care allowance, rent and rates of subvented service units and food expenses of short-term food assistance service, were also exempted, he added.

“The government has all along been committed to building a caring community and looking after the underprivileged.”

For the health sector, a recurrent subvention of HK$90.4 billion was provided to the Hospital Authority in 2022-23, representing an increase of over 60 percent as compared with 2017-18, he said.

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Regarding the education sector, in response to the service-wide measure implemented in 2022-23 to reduce total recurrent government expenditure by 1 percent, the Education Bureau had fully absorbed the reduction internally, according to the secretary. 

“The subvention provided to primary and secondary schools were still determined in accordance with the established mechanism and had not been reduced as a result of the service-wide measure,” he added.

Replying to another query on the government’s poverty alleviation measures, Sun said the government will increase the rates of the household and child allowances under the Working Family Allowance Scheme by 15 percent across the board with effect from the claim month of April 2024, benefiting all households receiving WFA. 

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The government has also implemented a host of improvement measures for the WFA Scheme in recent years, including relaxing the eligibility criteria, substantially increasing the rates of allowance twice in 2018 and 2020, and allowing household members to aggregate their working hours to receive higher amounts of allowances, etc, he added. 

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