Donald Tsang

Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2010, 12:00am

Is this really returning wealth to the people?

Hong Kong's top taxpayer made HK$182 million last year. With that kind of money Public Eye is guessing he probably can do without a government handout of HK$6,000. But he's going to get it anyway, thanks to our financial secretary. It's John Tsang Chun-wah's way of 'returning wealth' to the people. He's returning wealth to his boss, too. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who makes about HK$4.5 million a year, will also get HK$6,000. The financial secretary will put HK$6,000 into his own pocket as well. He probably deserves it for all the hard work he's done spreading the wealth. All of Hong Kong's taxpayers - who are among the wealthiest in our society - will each get a rebate of up to HK$6,000. But if you've lost your job or earn too little to qualify as a taxpayer, you're on your own. Tsang won't be returning any wealth to you. Maybe it's because he can't spare the cash. He needs it to return some wealth to the fellow who paid a world-record HK$439 million for a Conduit Road flat. This tycoon, along with all other homeowners - including those with multimillion-dollar flats - will each get up to HK$6,000 from John Tsang, who waived property rates for a year. But if you're too poor to own a home, Tsang won't be returning any wealth to you. Nor will he be returning it to struggling families not poor enough to qualify for welfare or public housing but not rich enough to survive on their own. So if you belong to what's now being dubbed the 'four no's' category - no job, no property, no public housing and no government welfare - you get nothing from Tsang's 'returning wealth' budget. One called up a radio phone-in show wanting to know why he had been excluded from all this wealth-sharing. Tsang told him to go get a job. Now why didn't the caller think of that himself?

Angry rich people? That would never do

So why exactly is our financial secretary handing out the public's money to Hong Kong's top taxpayer, and to that guy who splurged HK$439 million on a Mid-Levels flat? If he wants to return wealth to the people shouldn't he return it only to those who have no wealth and not to those who already have bundles of it? Is it so hard for John Tsang to say that if you own, for example, a HK$30 million flat on The Peak or make HK$10 million a year, you don't deserve a handout? Wouldn't the HK$6,000 that'll be going to some tax-paying tycoon be better spent on one of those frail old ladies who collect discarded cardboard boxes for a living? But thinking up and administering a formula that would screen out the rich folk from public handouts might be too taxing for our bureaucrats. It's hard to think when you're being chauffeur-driven to a long lunch. Besides, the rich folk might get mad. We don't want our bureaucrats shaking in their boots, do we?

Collusion rears its ugly head yet again

If for some silly reason you're still not sure whether our leaders care more about the people or the property developers, then this tale might help clear your mind. The government intends to impose a rule which says that if 80 per cent of an old building's owners sell to a developer, the rest must also sell. The developers are thrilled with this rule. Our legislators - elected by the people to speak for the people - are not. They say the rule is tailor-made to benefit the tycoons. Developers can force holdout owners to sell at rock-bottom prices, put up new flats and charge sky-high prices for them. The legislators passed a motion asking the government to scrap the rule. You could say it was the voice of the people. Did our leaders listen? No. They intend to press on with their plan. What's that word we now use when our leaders are in cahoots with big business? Oh yes, collusion.