Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am

Consensus is a code word for inaction

Is there such a thing as a totally harmonious society where everybody agrees on everything? OK, stupid question, but go and tell that to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah. If you cannot find him, he is probably in cloud cuckoo land where harmony rules. The other place with unquestioned harmony is North Korea, where you face a firing squad if you disagree with the Dear Leader.

Tsang thinks we in Hong Kong can all agree to agree, too. Maybe he's gone cuckoo. That happens when you spend too much time in a make-believe world. He wrote in his blog that we must all reach a consensus before the government considers a universal pension plan, which the Democrats have been pushing for.

Is Public Eye missing something? Are there really free societies out there where governments act only when consensus is reached on divisive issues? Is it possible for Hong Kong's powerful business sector to reach a consensus with the working class on a universal pension plan? Another stupid question. Just look at how fiercely bosses opposed a minimum-wage law. Look at how they are now trying to avoid paying workers for rest days and meal breaks.

No, Mr Tsang, you have been in your dream world too long. Visit us more often. Here, when bureaucrats speak of a consensus, we see it as a code word for inaction. We do not need the world's highest-paid bureaucrats if all they do is sit back and wait for consensus on everything. We pay them for leadership. When society is divided, we need leaders who dare to lead by doing the right thing. So please lead by telling us a universal pension plan is the right thing to do for our ageing population, or tell us it is not. Do not pussyfoot.

Fund managers get free ride for another year

Let us look at the truth about Hong Kong's current pension plan - the Mickey Mouse plan called the Mandatory Provident Fund. The truth is you cannot retire on it. For those now nearing retirement age, the total payout may cover a few holidays, but that is about it. Our bureaucrats were hallucinating up in cloud cuckoo land when they dreamed up the scheme.

The truth is that fund managers have for years drained a big chunk of your savings in fees and management costs. They charge high fees because they face no competition. They face no competition because you cannot shop around for your fund manager - your boss chooses for you. The truth is our bureaucrats have prevented competition since the scheme started. This has fattened the bank accounts of fund managers. Public pressure has finally forced a government U-turn. You can choose your own fund manager starting next year. This allows fund managers to milk you for yet another year. That is the truth.

Scrooge-like employers lack a conscience

We bet you if Charles Dickens was alive today he would have made Ebenezer Scrooge a Hong Kong boss. What can be more scrooge-like than the Employer's Federation telling its members they do not have to pay workers for meal breaks and rest days under the minimum-wage law? This group represents our top bosses. Public Eye knows many are the meanest in the developed world. But can anything be meaner than our bosses making workers choose to either starve or lose an hour's pay while they themselves enjoy long lunches in pricey restaurants?

Maybe public disgust will make them choke on their steaks. But do not count on it. That only happens to those with a conscience.

Lighting up our lives with sleepless nights

After three years as environment undersecretary, Dr Kitty Poon Kit has yet to see the light. Well, she does see it, but differently from how she should as an environmental official. Light, she says, is important to Hong Kong since we are the Pearl of the Orient. That explains the pussyfooting over a law against light pollution. We suppose she thinks all those flashing neon lights light up your life, not cause you sleepless nights or guzzle energy.