Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 February, 2011, 12:00am


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New budget promises same old tired ideas

What do we pay them for anyway? If you're a boss who pays good salaries but your workers always come up with the same tired ideas, would you fire them? Of course. But we can't fire our top bureaucrats even though we pay their salaries. Our political system doesn't allow us to do that. They know that, so they act like our bosses instead.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah will again unveil his same tired ideas in this year's budget later this month. Unveil is the wrong word since he's 'unveiled' the same ideas year in, year out. Flush with cash after wrongly predicting a deficit, he'll again hand out sweeteners to placate a restless public. That's all he can think of doing with the public's money - throw some back at the people and hoard the rest for a 'rainy day' without defining what that means. He threw over HK$20 billion at the people last time and will likely do the same this time. The government has spent nearly HK$123 billion in one-off sweeteners in the past three years. Is it money well spent?

We pay our bureaucrats good money to think. But that's all they can come up with - the same one-off relief measures instead of using the money on big, new and durable ideas so future generations won't have to rely on one-off handouts. Their inability to think keeps the people in perpetual poverty. Maybe that's the way the bureaucrats like it.

Poverty the shame of our super-rich society

We're heading for yet another huge budget surplus - over HK$70 billion. That again confirms we are a super-rich society. So how come such a rich society has so many people in need of government handouts? How come we can generate so much wealth yet have over a million people living in poverty? Do our bureaucrats think about that when they rake up all those surpluses? Do they ever wonder if they're doing things the wrong way? Or do they tell themselves they can do no wrong?

Government won't confront greedy developers

A stomach-turning story of greed is in its final chapter. It is not a story about victims and villains; it has mostly villains. That's how Public Eye sees it. Developer Winfoong, which sold what some buyers described as 'rubbish dump' flats at the Icon for preposterous prices, was motivated by greed. But it is not the only villain. Many buyers who paid HK$10 million or more for tiny flats were also driven by greed in a speculative property market. The developer conspired with some buyers to flout fire-safety rules. When their greed was exposed, the developer offered to buy back the flats at a higher price. But the buyers wanted even more. Winfoong agreed to pay, hoping that would end this story of greed.

But that's not how the story should end. Centaline, which acted as middleman in the flat sales, is being investigated by the Estate Agents Authority for possible wrongdoing. But who is investigating Winfoong? No one. The authority has no power to investigate developers. But the government has. The seller and some buyers are suspected of conspiring to convert closed kitchens into open ones without government permission. There was possible intent to break fire-safety rules.

So why is the government not investigating Winfoong? Is it because the administration has no backbone when it comes to confronting property developers?

Tang playing with fire by chiding the young

So, you think all those people uprisings in the Middle East can't possibly happen here. Don't be so sure. OK, it's unlikely we'll see angry street mobs. But we have seen half a million angry people marching peacefully on the streets. Peaceful protests can easily turn into angry mobs. All it takes is a trigger.

That's why Public Eye thinks it was silly of Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen to have scolded the so-called post-80s generation for venting anger at the government. These young people are disillusioned. Listen to them, don't lecture them. Or you risk pulling the trigger.