Democrats in negative territory

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 12:00am

Ask a stupid question and you get a stupid answer but only the Democrats would then try to turn that answer into policy.

Your correspondent faces a dilemma every time he steps behind that curtain in the polling booth with a blank ballot in hand. The usual choice is between a range of publicity-hungry loonies, the mouthpieces of established interests and the Democrats. Next time, however, the Democrats go into the loony category.

Here is an example of a stupid question. Would you like the Government to give you money for nothing, no strings attached, just the straight loot, end of story?

Well, surprise, surprise, an 80 per cent Yes response plus instant identification of that 20 per cent of the population that we can refer immediately to the psychology department of the University of Hong Kong for some interesting case studies.

Your correspondent does not know quite how the Democrats phrased the question but, as almost 80 per cent of 593 people interviewed last week answered it by saying that the Government should assist homeowners with negative equity, it must have been a triumph of statistical enquiry.

Step aside, Mr Orwell. You had the gender wrong when worrying about the future. It is not Big Daddy as government. It is Big Mommy. Has someone out there on the playground been nasty to you, poor tootsie? Oh, what a shame, come home and tell Mommy all about it and she will set things right. There you go.

The real gem, however, was watching a television reporter following it all up on Sunday night by interviewing a 'Mr Wong' who has difficulties making ends meet on the mortgages he carries on three flats. Yep, three flats. Television has done the Democrats one better. Landlords should get government help too.

You have no choice now, Mr Tung. The people have spoken. Your only option is to dig deep into those reserves and spray the money out. The Democrats will raise it as an urgent matter of public relief in Legco this week and, after all, they understand these things better than you do. You are only a shipowner. They are barristers.

Courtroom logic has made them such clear thinkers too. They have all sorts of wonderful ideas for helping people with negative equity and have particularly warned you not to focus on rising property prices.

If prices rise, you see, then people may find their homes are worth more than they paid for them and . . .

Ahem . . . hold on here, let's try this one again. If prices rise then . . . hmmm . . . negative equity may no longer be . . . hmmm . . ?

Ah . . . excuse us, Your Worship, bit of difficulty here. Could we have a recess, please. This case has taken on new dimensions.

But, while we are at it, why should it be only people who carry negative equity on their homes that get this well-merited relief from their burdens? Let us run one of these Democrat-style surveys on the stock market next.

Your correspondent bought some Swire Pacific recently and he is about HK$1 a share down on his purchase price. It is a good company, he bought it in good faith and it is just not fair. You hear? It is a miscarriage of justice and he wants that cheque for the difference tomorrow, Mr Tung.

And don't forget my friend over there. He picked Fortune's Fool for the cup at Happy Valley the other night and the nag didn't do what the TV commentator said it would. You licence that television station, Mr Tung, and you granted the Jockey Club a monopoly. It's your fault. Pay up.

Your correspondent proposes another survey question to those people who answered Yes to the Democrats. Do you agree to surrender all your profits to the Government if you should eventually happen to sell your flat for more than the price at which you bought it?

That is all. Just answer the question.