Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 March, 2011, 12:00am

Voice of public just gibberish to John Tsang

Here's a question: do you listen to the people before you decide what's good for them or do you listen after you've already decided what's good for them? Don't ask Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah. You'll only confuse him. He can't tell the difference between before and after. Before the budget, the people told him they were hurting. Wealth from the economic recovery hadn't trickled down to them. They wanted government action to narrow the wealth gap. Rocketing prices had shattered their dream of owning a home. They wanted the government to restart subsidised home sales. And they wanted a real pension plan, not the joke that is the MPF. Tsang did none of those things. Maybe he is hard of hearing. Here's what Public Eye thinks: his ears are fine. It's just that he doesn't speak or understand the people's language. It sounds like gibberish to him. He got his pro-government buddies in the Legislative Council to translate. They told him to revise his budget. But things were lost in translation. His revised budget still drew thousands of protesters to the streets. As they were readying to revolt, he went on radio to say 'sincere and open dialogue' between the people and the government had produced the best possible budget for everyone. Sincere and open dialogue? Didn't he promise that before, not after, his budget? Maybe we've missed something. Maybe he promised sincere and open dialogue only if his budget bombed. Now he says this budget dialogue has 'produced the best possible outcome for the community'. Go tell that to the thousands who protested on Sunday night. But before he does that, Public Eye suggests he first take a few quick lessons in the people's language. It's really not that hard.

Listening to a language they don't understand

Forget the numbers. It doesn't matter whether 10,000 turned up for Sunday's street protest, as organisers say, or 6,000, as police claim. There were still thousands. And they spoke the people's language. That language has now become one of raw anger. Our leaders don't understand the language. They didn't understand it even when it was subdued. They understand it even less now. It's not just Public Eye saying it. Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen (left) himself confirmed his ignorance of the language when he scolded the so-called post-80s generation, warning them their raw anger would lead them to a bad end. That shows he just doesn't get why they're angry. Our leaders could try listening. But that won't help. You've got to understand what goes into your ears. Look what happened to John Tsang and his budget - the one he said he had prepared after months of listening to the people.

Government prophet with a patchy record

Public Eye is not sure how much the government pays Lau Siu-kai. But we're sure it's not peanuts. When it comes to looking after its own, our government is very generous with the people's money. That's why we have the world's highest-paid bureaucrats. Lau is the head of the Central Policy Unit, the government's secretive think tank which tracks public sentiment to help our leaders shape policies. We're guessing Lau briefed John Tsang on the public mood before Tsang drew up his budget. How else can you explain why Tsang got his budget so wrong? Lau briefed former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa on the public mood, too. He dismissed the July 1, 2003, anti-Tung administration march as a non-event that would attract only a few thousand protesters. Half a million turned up. Soothsayer Lau foretold something else last week. He said Tsang's poorly received budget had pushed public anger with the government to such a critical point that even a small spark could trigger massive unrest. He later denied saying that, but we all know he did say it. The question is: as the government's man feeling the public's pulse, shouldn't he have foretold rising public anger well before it reached a critical point? Are we paying big bucks to a false prophet?