Vouchers still top wish for budget

Four in five Hongkongers want consumption vouchers again in the forthcoming budget on Wednesday, of whom 40 percent believing the handout should remain at HK$10,000, a survey has found.

That finding came in a Hong Kong Research Association phone poll of 1,073 residents from January 26 to February 8 on their budget expectations.

Almost 40 percent of respondents said the total amount should remain unchanged if there are one-off relief measures, while 37 percent said it should be higher and 13 percent supported a "decrease."

But respondents in different income levels have mixed views. About 42 percent of those from lower-income households, which earn less than HK$29,999 per month, are expecting an increased total expenditure, while 72 percent of higher-income households agreed it should remain unchanged or lower than last year.

If the budget were to launch e-vouchers, the largest number of respondents said the amount should "remain the same" compared to the previous year's HK$10,000, accounting for 40 percent, while 20 percent said it should be reduced.

Some 85 percent also want a subsidy for their electricity bills.

In addition, 67 percent said the short-term relief measures should be prioritized "to meet the urgent need of living."

The association said expectations for one-off relief measures are still strong among lower-income families, reflecting financial vitality of those at the grassroots has yet to recover.

The association urged targeted measures to help people tide over the difficulties and further promote the recovery of Hong Kong's economy and livelihoods.

Another survey conducted by Hong Kong Thinkers Co in January of 542 grassroot citizens found transportation fares topped the 20 worries that people had about price increases, followed by fresh pork, cigarettes, canned food and fresh fish.

The company's president, Wilson Or Chong-shing, suggested not less than HK$5,000 in e-consumption vouchers be handed out not only to relieve financial hardship and maintain the quality of life, but also to support the retail market.

Meanwhile, Certified Practising Accountant Australia, one of the largest professional accounting bodies globally, suggested the launch of a modified e-consumption voucher scheme to hand out HK$2,000 to all eligible Hong Kong residents and HK$8,000 to the disadvantaged.

It also wants the tobacco duty doubled and suggested the government impose a tax on non-recyclable plastic products.

Responding to Adrian Ho King-hong in a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, financial services and the treasury secretary Christopher Hui Ching-yu said officials will look at a basket of factors including the public reserves, the local economic situation and social impact when considering whether to raise gaming tax.

Hui said there is "no plan at the moment to increase the number of licenses for football betting," since those licenses are only issued by the government under the Betting Duty Ordinance to the Jockey Club, to prevent competition among operators that could end up stimulating gambling demand.

New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has suggested the football tax should be raised, but the club has been quick in challenging the need and to say she is not familiar with operations.