Lawmakers' pay grab true to the jungle

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am
 

Hong Kong has the world's highest home prices by some measures, despite having some of the ugliest buildings in which it is possible to live. Flats in areas that in other cities would be called ghettos, projects or slums go for prices that in friendlier climes would buy you an estate with orchards and lawns.

Hong Kong has the world's freest economy, according to a baffling, oft-repeated claim made each year by an unthinking US-based think tank, yet an anti-monopoly bill that would enforce fair competition struggles to get into the statute books in any meaningful form.

The current session of the Legislative Council offers a clue for such riddles, as lawmakers shamelessly seek to double their pay, inspired by the absurdly generous salaries awarded to political assistants and ministers. Legislators who are accountable to an electorate that is getting poorer by around 5 per cent each year would not dare to seek a 100 per cent pay rise, particularly at a time when the rich are steadily getting richer, year by year.

Incredibly, representatives of the functional constituencies, who are not elected by popular vote and are notorious for failing to show up for debates, feel that they too should be included in the forthcoming pay day, doubtlessly emboldened by the prospect that renegade lawmakers such as 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung and his banana-throwing ilk will double the money they earn from their antics in the debating chamber.

The lawmakers' indecent behaviour confirms this city's status as a textbook example of a plutocracy, which is the rule of the rich, by the rich for the rich.

It's a jungle out there, an environment that brings to mind an advertisement broadcast on the cable TV channel Animal Planet, which quotes natural history filmmakers talking about their line of work. One of them offers this advice: 'Don't ever turn your back on the animals, because if you give them a chance to take you, they will.'

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