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Hong Kong’s massive cash giveaway: 2.8 million citizens to get $510 each

Hong Kong’s massive cash giveaway: 2.8 million citizens to get $510 each
The government of Hong Kong has announced its decision to share the city’s record $18 billion surplus with more than one-third of its residents.

“[We are] trying to cover more people who may not directly benefit from the budget,” said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po at a press conference on Friday.

According to him, the handout was meant for Hong Kong residents who are 18 years old and over; who do not own a property; do not receive any government allowances; and will not pay income tax for the financial year ending next week.

Those who meet the above criteria but have to pay income tax can still get some cash, he said. If the tax concession they receive is under $500, they will receive the difference between the two amounts.

The finance chief singled out the “small number of people” who pay no tax but live in properties they own. If they receive less than $500 in rates waivers announced in the budget, they will get the difference between the amount waived and the cash handout.

The handouts would cost the government an extra $1.4 billion, Chan said, explaining that they were in response to views that Hong Kong lawmakers and people had expressed “loud and clear.”

While some have welcomed the cash-handout decision, others have criticized the government for failing to explain why $500 was the right amount.

Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai said there was still a “gap” between the sweeteners given to the better-off and those left out of Chan’s original budget.

“I think as government officials we need to have the capacity to step back and reflect the various views expressed and see how we may be able to better serve our people. So this scheme... is an effort to try to respond to the needs of the community in a proactive manner,” said Chan. He described the handout amount as a “balanced figure.”

“Over the past few weeks, you have heard suggestions from different political parties on different amounts. On balance, we do think the current proposed amount of $500 is the right amount.”

Some lawmakers urged the government to dole out a universal cash handout, suggesting they might veto the budget in the Legislative Council if it did not do so. The minister, however, said that distributing cash to all was not part of the administration’s fiscal strategy.

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