Motion on “Establishing a Universal Retirement Protection System” (2017.07.06)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, I support the enhancement of our retirement protection system to provide needy elderly people with more comprehensive protection. But I do not agree to a Demo-grant system with uniform payment for everybody irrespective of whether one is rich or poor. Actually, many elderly people in Hong Kong need social assistance. The Government should concentrate its resources on helping the needy elderly people to provide them with financial assistance of a larger amount.

Up to this point of my speech, I can foresee that some people may criticize those Members who do concrete work and speak the truth in the manner of hurling personal attacks. Indulging in their make-believe world, those Members who reprimand others with vulgarisms think that so doing can deter other Members from expressing dissenting views. In my view, they are doomed to fail. Perhaps, some other Members may dismiss Functional Constituency (“FC”) Members as a hindrance to development and poverty alleviation and therefore propose to abolish FCs. As Members all know, most FC Members are professionals or representatives of various sectors and industries. All along, they have rendered the greatest support to fostering Hong Kong’s development and enabled the Government to receive more resources for alleviating poverty. Therefore, I actually find it ridiculous and baffling to hear the proposal for abolishing FCs from Members who oppose development.

I wish to reiterate that filibustering underpinned by subjective motives or indiscriminate filibustering will definitely hinder the development of Hong Kong. As a result, Hong Kong will have to pay a price, and the Government will be deprived of resources to properly discharge its responsibility of providing retirement protection. These harms will surface gradually. I believe that after I have made these remarks, some Members may level malicious criticisms at me later on. But I will not give any reply, solely because I do not have another opportunity to speak again today. The relevant Members should not have the delusion that they are correct because of this.

I support the broad direction of the Government’s poverty alleviation efforts, hoping that as far as our public finances permit, subsidies of a greater sum can be disbursed to the needy elderly people. And, speaking of an assets test, the principle of leniency should be adopted, so that the needy elderly people can be included in the scope of protection. At the same time, the Government should also assure elderly people that in times of economic growth, the level of subsidies will be raised correspondingly, including the “fruit grant” which does not require any assets test.

During this motion debate, Members also discussed the offsetting mechanism under the Mandatory Provident Fund (“MPF”) System. My stance on this matter is open, and I hope that various stakeholders can sit down and talk it out. Actually, the previous-term Government already put forth a “cut-off” proposal. But the result was that it was rejected by both employers and employees. The new Chief Executive even said that it was necessary to conduct a fresh study. Today, we can also see that the offsetting mechanism has actually produced huge impact on grass-roots people. But the abolition of the offsetting mechanism will deal a great blow to small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”). All these issues must be handled with care. Nevertheless, Members must note one point. When the MPF System was introduced back then, the Government promised to include the offsetting mechanism in exchange for the support of the business sector. So, it is not unjustified for the business sector to voice opposition now. The respective arguments put forth by employers and employees are all justifiable. So, instead of acting on impulse, both sides should give holistic consideration to this matter with an attitude of mutual understanding and accommodation, in a bid to jointly identify a win-win solution.

Regardless of what proposal is devised at the end of the day, employers should not be required to pay back any severance payments and long service payments which they have expected to use for offsetting purpose even if the abolition of the offsetting mechanism is to be effected. Otherwise, this may cause unfairness to them. The reason is that they have already expected that the relevant sums can be spent for offsetting. I do not believe many SMEs can afford the payments if they are pursued for payment all of a sudden. At the same time, the Government should implement the relevant arrangements in phases as far as possible, so as to reduce the impact on the business sector, particularly SMEs. I do not believe the labour sector will wish to see a wave of business closure among SMEs resulting from the abolition of the offsetting mechanism.

As regards the proposed public annuity scheme, I think it is a desirable proposal, and I know that many people are interested in the scheme. This form of retirement protection scheme is precisely suitable for those better-off elderly people. The problem at present is that its limited scale may be unable to meet people’s demand. So, the Government should gradually expand its scale. Besides, I have also proposed to link up the MPF schemes with the public annuity scheme, so that retirees with a sound financial basis may withdraw and deposit their MPF accrued benefits into their public annuity accounts to open up another avenue for assuring their retirement protection.

I so submit.

Scroll to Top