A friend rightly said, when a life-long politically apathetic person like me gets worked up about government and politics, then you know something is seriously wrong.
Late last month, the Hong Kong government released its budget for 2011-12, detailing its plans for the coming year, while also announcing a surplus of HK$71.3 billion from last year. Great right? There’s so much in this city that needs done, we can definitely put that money to good use.
I’m not a politician, but off the top of my head, I can rattle off a few ideas. We need:
- better waste management. Our famous harbour has E.coli levels too high to swim in.
- cleaner air. Upgrade bus engines.
- better working conditions for our nurses and doctors. Halt the brain drain from the public to the private sector.
- a sound pension plan for the population.
- increased healthcare funding for the poor and the elderly.
- better social protection and support for the lower rungs of society.
But governments never do what they’re supposed to do, do they? Instead of investing our money in well thought-out plans to start fixing long-existing problems, they decided to act like short-term contractors and thought the best way to placate the population is to give meaningless handouts.
A one-off tax rebate. A one-off subsidy for our electricity bills. Increase healthcare coupons for the elderly by a few useless hundreds of dollars.
Most notably, the government is giving every single permanent resident over the age of 18 HK$6000 (£481) in cash.
Under normal circumstances, I don’t complain about free cash, but as a government policy, in the grand scheme of things, our money can do so much more collectively.
Not every single permanent resident lives in HK. Tens of thousands of them live, more or less permanently as well, overseas. Our money is therefore going to Canada, going to the UK, going to America, and probably taxed by the governments there as well. Hurrah.
The rich doesn’t need the HK$6000. To the millionaires here, it’s spending money for a night out in town. To the poor, how far is that money really going to get them? Compared to effective long-term social support? Better paid social workers? Better healthcare?
Do you know where my HK$6000 is going? It’s going to Malaysia. I’m planning to use it on a dive holiday in June. That probably makes me a hypocrite.
Look, I’m not going to donate my money to charity. You’ve given me the money, it’s mine now, so I’m going to use it as I please. Yes, I am selfish. I’m not a hero. I like going on holidays. I don’t need to justify how I am going to spend my cash.
But I’d rather not be given it in the first place. As a government, our officials are complete pussies.