John Tsang berated for leaving budget 'mess'
The financial secretary has not made best use of the city's vast reserves with his repeated handouts, which will make it difficult for his successor to do his job, a public forum heard yesterday.
Speakers at RTHK's City Forum in Carpenter Road Park in Kowloon Tong said John Tsang Chun-wah had failed to tackle the city's structural problems by resorting to one-off, short-term measures.
Lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit, leader of the Civic Party, said the budget proposals unveiled last week should have addressed deeper challenges such as Hong Kong's ageing population, and its failure to do so would leave a mess for the next administration.
He gave an example. 'The government should have found ways to handle the issue regarding [mainland] pregnant women ... but the budget didn't allocate enough money for the problem. It shows the government lacks long-term vision. It will be a mess to pick up.'
Ng Kwok-yin, vice-president of the Taxation Institute of Hong Kong, said Tsang's tax-relief measures, which had been used for years, would leave fewer choices for his successor.
'But these are one-off measures and shouldn't affect the city's long-term growth,' he said.
But the size of the government's financial reserves, equal to more than 20 months of public expenditure, was 'unhealthy'.
Participants and lawmakers alike berated Tsang for neglecting the city's neediest people - those who live outside the government's so-called safety net who have no access to public housing or welfare, do not pay taxes, and are not entitled to many government relief measures.
Tsang's budget contained several tax-relief measures, including raising the basic tax allowance to HK$120,000 from HK$108,000 and increasing other allowances.
Some analyses said Tsang had tried to avoid any controversial measures as the administration of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen takes on lame-duck status. Donald Tsang and his political aides, including John Tsang, will step down on June 30 following the March 25 election to choose the next chief executive.