• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 10:39pm

Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 October, 2010, 12:00am

Speculation the stench of Lau Wong-fat issue

We're all losing the plot. We're only smelling the stink but missing the larger stench emanating from the highest levels of our government. Here is the plot. Lau Wong-fat belongs to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's inner circle of top advisers known as the Executive Council. As such, he must declare property dealings to avoid any conflict of interest. He didn't do this for the sale of three Yuen Long houses and the purchase of 24 flats, three of which he sold in confirmor transactions. Don't know what that means? Public Eye will tell you. It means property speculation - buying a flat and quickly selling it at a profit before the purchase is even finalised. Lau did this at exactly the same time the government was trying to curb such sales to cool the overheated market. He made a nice HK$800,000 profit from these three flats. Here's how we're losing the plot. We're only going after Lau for failing to disclose the sale of his three Yuen Long houses, the purchase of 24 flats and possible use of insider information in the confirmor transactions. Sure, all this stinks, but the larger stench is this: speculation is partly to blame for our disgustingly high property prices. Decent, hard-working families can no longer afford even modest flats. Speculation enriches the greedy and makes the poor even poorer. How can the government credibly devise policies to curb speculation when its top policymakers are not only allowed but actively indulge in speculation? How many others in Tsang's cabinet have speculated in property? How many of our overpaid bureaucrats, especially those handling housing policies, have indulged in this get-rich-quick absurdity at the expense of the people?

Housing minister ducks TV and radio exposure

Lau Wong-fat didn't disclose his property dealings but Eva Cheng, our housing secretary, topped that. She hid her face - and her voice. Cheng briefed the media last week on survey findings showing public anger at sky-high property prices. She discussed ways to meet the people's demand for subsidised housing. But she didn't want the people to see or hear her. She banned TV cameras and voice recorders. The people had to make do with reading what she said. Public Eye gave this some thought and came up with this conclusion: Eva Cheng doesn't dare look the people in the eye.

1.26m live on the price of two drinks per day ...

Remember this figure: 1.26 million. Burn it into your brain. That's how many poor people 'rich' Hong Kong has. They survive on about HK$100 a day. With that they must pay for their accommodation, food, utilities, transport, clothes and schoolbooks for their kids. What buys you two drinks in a Lan Kwai Fong bar must cover all their daily needs. Isn't it time we stop calling Hong Kong a prosperous society? How can a society be prosperous when nearly 20 per cent of its people live in poverty? Isn't it more accurate to say Hong Kong has great wealth concentrated in the hands of a small minority?

... while trickle-down effect fills suit pockets

What does it mean when a society with the world's highest concentration of Rolls-Royces, name-brand stores and buyers of pricey Swiss watches also has 1.26 million poor people? It means something stinks. Our government worships the logic that prosperity will spread throughout society if it bends over backwards to facilitate the business sector. Hong Kong's business tax is among the lowest in the world. Even the wine tax has been abolished. Rules are deliberately lax so businesses can pursue profits unhindered. But is money trickling down to everybody? Go and ask the 1.26 million poor. Breadwinners in their families are called 'the working poor' - bosses pay them slave wages. Money is not trickling down to them from the business-friendly policies. It's pouring into the pockets of the business class.

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