This Greek tragedy should be a salutary lesson for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 May, 2010, 12:00am

Our democratically minded citizens and politicians need to pay attention to the Euro110 billion (HK$1.1 trillion) in loans from 'euro-zone countries and the International Monetary Fund' which is being given to Greece to bail it out of bankruptcy ('Anger builds amid rush to implement more spending cuts', May 4). Greece has been going down the welfare state road ever since Prime Minister George Papandreou's father, Andreas Papandreou, was the premier in the 1980s.

There are successful democratic welfare states like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland.

The citizens in these countries are happy to pay high taxes in exchange for good public services.

Countries like Greece have citizens who want good welfare but would not like to pay for it. Since money does not grow on trees, deficits in these countries are inevitable. Greece took to fudging its accounts to hide its deficits and now the chickens have come home to roost.

From the 1950s to the 1970s there was little in the way of welfare payments in Hong Kong. Most people lived in squalid conditions, but nobody complained. There was nobody to complain to, anyway.

People just gritted their teeth and worked hard. Everybody understood they were responsible for their own well-being.

Fast-forward to today. Everything is the fault of our government.

We think it is our government's duty to look after every aspect of our lives.

When it comes to paying taxes, the lower the better.

If we are not careful, we will be heading down the road taken by Greece.

For a rich city like ours, of course, the old, the sick and the helpless should not be allowed to live in a state of destitution. However, we need to draw a line somewhere.

We need to make sure that able-bodied persons will not rely on government handouts.

One good example that illustrates we are heading in the wrong direction is the higher old-age allowance, or 'fruit money'.

It was introduced in the late 1970s to enable poor people over the age of 70 to be able to buy some fruit to augment their meagre diets.

Today, we have Louis Vitton handbag-lugging 70-year-old tai-tais happily pocketing this money.

Is this the way taxpayers' money should be used?

The League of Social Democrats' Wong Yuk-man has even put this down as one of his 'achievements' as a legislator.

Can we concentrate on helping the people in real need rather than giving handouts to those who can look after themselves, just for the sake of getting votes?

Alex Woo, Tsim Sha Tsui