Subsidies on living expenses, income, to arrive next month

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Issue 280, Page 1 & 5
Word count: 1115
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Temporary measures costing the government nearly 814 million patacas to alleviate residents’ pressure from inflation will be implemented next month.

Also included will be a subsidy on household electricity expenses, income allowance and extra financial aids to low socio-economic groups.

Secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, announced the move yesterday after the second plenary meeting of the Social Co-ordination Standing Committee where members discussed the revision of the pensions scheme.

The subsidies on power bills and working poor will last for a year, while the extra allowances to disadvantaged groups will be granted once in April.

According to Mr Tam, the government noticed that the high inflation had impacted on the residents’ living quality and purchasing power recently.

Considering that Macau belonged to a high-degree free economic system but lacked effective measures and space to resist soaring prices, Mr Tam said the plans launched mainly “aimed towards the direction of boosting the people’s ability to pay”.

Electricity subsidy

Due to the influences created in society by constant prices rise, Mr Tam said a monthly electricity subsidy of 150 patacas would be offered to each of the 180,000 households throughout Macau between April this year and March 2009.

If the bill was less than 150 patacas in a particular month, the rest of the credit could be accumulated and carried to the next month until the household’s total amount of subsidy at 1,800 patacas was all being withdrawn, Mr Tam added.

According to the estimation of CEM, there were about 55,000 residential units, or 30 percent of the total number of households in Macau, who pay less than 150 patacas on electricity a month.

It means that for the coming year starting from next month, charges on these households will be completely waived.

There are also 60,000 households in Macau with monthly bills ranging from 150 patacas to 300 patacas will have their expenses reduced half because of the temporary measure.

The economy and finance secretary said the project had an estimated expenditure of 324 million patacas for the SAR government.

At the same time, income allowances and more financial aids are also set to be introduced in a bid to further relieve the economic burden of Macau’s low socio-economic groups, Mr Tam added.

Income allowances

Local residents aged 40 or above, who work full-time and contribute to the social security fund as an employed status, but earn less than 4,000 patacas a month, will receive a subsidy from the government every three months in order to have the amount of income reach 4,000 patacas every month, which is about half of the local median wage at about 8,000 patacas.

According to the government definition, Mr Tam said a “full-time” job meant the person worked at least 152 hours and 26 days a month, or 35 hours and six days a week.

The measure was planned to be in effect from the first to the fourth quarter of the year.

As the implementation had to be launched as an administrative regulation, the secretary said application procedures and management had been set out generally and would be sent to the Executive Council for discussion as soon as possible.

The first application period is hoped to begin in April in which residents can lodge their salary details between January and March for getting the aids.

There are about 16,000 local residents who will be benefited from the scheme which will cost the government some 350 million patacas, Mr Tam added.

Low socio-economic groups

In order to ensure the disadvantaged groups to maintain their basic living standard, the SAR government will offer a one-time special subsidy equals to three times of the original monthly subsidy to families in April.

It means that eligible households will be distributed the special subsidy on top of their regular assistance.

The measures were introduced by the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Chui Sai On, after the first meeting of the Committee of the Fight Against AIDS yesterday.

People who will benefit from the scheme are the 5,200 families currently receiving regular financial aid from the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS), as well as the three types of disadvantaged families which include single-parent, the physically disadvantaged and chronically ill, Mr Chui said.

Of the 5,200 families, they will each receive a total subsidy next month ranging from a minimum 9,600 patacas for a one-person household to a maximum 45,920 patacas for a household with eight members or above.

The payments will be four times the original allowance the families usually receive regularly between 2,400 patacas to 11,480 patacas.

As for the three disadvantaged groups, they at present receive a special financial aid, apart from the family subsidy, from the IAS monthly for their children’s learning activities and nursing.

Single-parent families will be offered either 100 patacas, 200 patacas and 3,00 patacas for their children going to kindergarten or primary schools, high school or university.

Physically advantaged people will receive 300 patacas, while those with no family and living on their own will get an extra 100 patacas.

Also, chronically ill people will receive either 300 patacas or 400 patacas to aid their nursing expenses.

Therefore, these groups will be given an additional sum valued at three times the amount of the monthly financial aid in April which will cost the government about three million patacas.

In addition, a special subsistence allowance will continue to be distributed to those in need in May and August which will cost the government 15 million patacas.

This special subsistence allowance is usually distributed to the three disadvantaged groups as well as the “marginal families” who do not qualify for financial aid to pay for expenses during festive events such as the Dragon Boat Festival or for buying textbooks before the school commences.

Mr Chui said the government would spend about 67.5 million patacas in order to carry out the three types of subsidies mentioned above.

Before the proposed amendments of the pensions system were to be passed to the Executive Council within the next two weeks, Mr Tam said the recipients would, in May, receive an extra full amount of pensions totalling 1,800 patacas.

The “double-pay” will cost the government 72.5 million patacas, Mr Tam added.

The economy and finance secretary said that during the first plenary meeting of the Social Co-ordination Standing Committee last month, members agreed to lower the age eligible for applying for a pension, from 65 to 60.

Although Mr Tam said discussions at the Executive Council and then at the Legislative Assembly were unlikely to be completed by April, he vowed that the government would respond to the social demand as fast as they could after completing all administrative procedures needed.

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