SCMP Saturday, August 25, 2001

Unionists seek $41b spending to create jobs


Unionist legislators yesterday urged the Government to spend $41.6 billion from its reserves to boost the ailing economy and create at least 30,000 jobs.
Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Lau Chin-shek and non-affiliated Michael Mak Kwok-fung said the expenditure would help people overcome short-term financial difficulties.
Mr Lee said the money was less than one-tenth of the Government's $430 billion financial reserves.
"The Government really has to do something. Spending the money would . . . prevent the economy getting worse. If the Government is going to do nothing on the issue, people will be greatly disappointed," he said.
The spending package proposal includes $10 billion for a training scheme fund; $10 billion to speed up infrastructure projects and create jobs; and a 30 per cent reduction in public housing and market rents.
It also earmarks $2 billion for low-skilled workers to undertake environmental improvement and building management work. The legislators estimate the package would directly create 30,000 jobs.
Mr Lee said rent reduction was better than a tax refund as it would improve living standards.
He said the legislators expected to speak to Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung next week about their proposal.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong has also made several suggestions to the Government on helping people with financial difficulties. The party's recommendations include reducing the eligibility age for the dependent parent allowance from 60 to 55 years.
Mr Leung has said he will consider suggestions from all parties.