As good times turn to bad, we should not look for handouts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2008, 12:00am

It is quite obvious that Hong Kong's economy is in the worst shape it has been for two years. On the one hand the population must deal with rising prices for daily necessities such as fuel and food, while on the other they face a continuously downward slope in the Hang Seng Index.

In view of the fact that investment income for many people will shrink significantly this year compared with last year and that limited government assistance can be provided to counter inflation, public discontent in the current economic environment is understandable.

But the problem cannot be solved by continuing to blame the government and ask for more handouts. We must be realistic.

We should have noticed by now that surging oil prices are affecting the global economy. This is on top of the stagnant US economy expected in the near future after the subprime mortgage crisis emerged late last year.

Continuous natural calamities such as the giant snowstorm, earthquake and flooding across the mainland since the beginning of the year will affect the economic growth of China. It would therefore be an unrealistic hope for Hong Kong to escape the wave of economic downturn, irrespective of what the government does.

To quote former US president John Kennedy, ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. We have to be tough and creative to find other substantial ways to make extra earnings.

We must also be more caring towards others, with the more capable and well-off lending a hand to those in need.

These qualities were demonstrated during the Sars outbreak five years ago. But since then, we have enjoyed the fruits of our economic prosperity, making self-interested and unrealistic demands at the expense of the public welfare.

We would do well to remember the words of statesman Ouyang Xiu, from the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), that history teaches us that 'the amply industrious can erect an empire, but the overly idle can forfeit his life'.

Eric Chu, Tsing Yi