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My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 3:28am

Hong Kong's widening wealth gap needs home-grown solution

Some of the most deep-seated problems plaguing Hong Kong today - extreme social and income inequalities - are not something democracy alone can solve. While it is laudable that our community is becoming increasingly politically active, the fight for greater political freedom is only half the battle. We are neglecting the other half, namely greater equality.

As the Post reported this week, poverty and income disparities in our city are approaching record levels. The struggle for universal suffrage is, to a large extent, spearheaded by the middle and professional classes who have felt hard done by since the Handover. But the fight for greater equality has much to do with helping the poor and creating the conditions in which the next generation can enjoy greater equality of opportunity - in education and jobs. In this, we have much more work to do and are far behind.

Our poverty statistics are truly scary. Our wealth gap, as measured by the Gini coefficient, is at its widest in four decades and among the highest in the world. We hit 0.537 last year. Five years ago, it was at 0.533 and in 2001, it was 0.525. A study by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service using official figures estimates Hong Kong has 1.15 million people living in poverty, equivalent to 16 per cent of the population. Poverty among the elderly is especially disgraceful. Meanwhile, average income grew 60 per cent among the top 10 per cent of earners from 2001 to 2010, but it dropped by 20 per cent in the bottom 10 per cent.

Successive administrations refused to establish a poverty line. As Comprehensive Social Security Assistance or welfare recipients have remained steady between 450,000 to 460,000 in recent years, officials claim poverty is not worsening. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying deserves credit for finally agreeing to draw up an official poverty line, against which relief policies can be measured.

We are, of course, not alone in suffering a widening wealth gap. More than two thirds of the world's population lives in societies - both democratic and authoritarian - where inequalities have worsened since 1980.

But while our problems may be universal, the conditions are specific to Hong Kong, and require local understanding and solutions. In this, we cannot blindly ape western democracies as our guide.


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It is the result of the collusion of the govt. & Hk tycoons. Three steps to eradicate all poverty problems in HK
!.) Change the mindset of the govt. of making money and accumulating reserves. We need balanced bugets only, not surplus
2.) Downsize the size of govt and make it as small as possible
3.) Hand out all reserves to people of HK and make everyone of them a half-half-millionaire !
I'm surprised many people keep saying or believe in Hk as an "non interfering economy"! HK in fact is one of the most interfered and I would say closed to quasi monopoly economy. Why? Hk government has been using land supply control to influence the property price that in turn affecting wealth distribution that causing rich poor gap widening. How could you say no interfering ? Secondly, Most HK people works for developers and government as both control almost the whole economy as government accounts for 20% GDP? Even in financial service such as MPF fund or stock trading are so expensive in HK. to illustrate it cost me $1 commission to buy around us$70k of apple stocks in USA but how much will it cost you if you buy the same amount in China Mobile? As HK always protect the professionals and has very little competition for the rich and educated. Therefore our poor rich gap keep rising...
To explain further HK government is using land supply to control land and property price as with our low tax the government has no choices to use this policy to finance its operations. So if you look at another angle, HK is not really low tax as we all pay a high premium on properties, which could be seen as another way of taxing.
Land revenue does not finance government operations, it exclusively is spent on capital projects through the CWRF
Alex and huickythanlink are absolutely right here. But my understanding is most governments (including HK and Mainland) around the globe desire a "middle-way approach". The issue is whether they can successfully accomplish this goal. Here the complexity arises. The socialist approach is not wrong in its goal. In fact, even communism was originally conceived as a solution to the social ills outlined in huickythanlink's post. Unfortunately, this extremist response seems to have failed, but I still respect the original intention.
Income disparity and wealth gap have nothing to do with democracy. It is result of, among many factors, "extreme" capitalism of "free market" when the system spearheaded by the government takes on a non-interference approach allowing the "makers" a free hand to determine the well-being of the under-class, invariably resulting in exploitation and minimal wages of the ordinary workers in the "makers" maximization of profit. Aided by labor unions, most of the European (democratic) states under-pinned by ideology of socialism traced back to the renaissance period have taken a "socialist" approach that the under-class needs to be taken care of - some to the other extreme of becoming "socialist" states. It is high time that Hong Kong's government needs to move away from absolute non-interference which has given a free hand to the "makers" in maximization of profit and super-wealth. In today's complex world, a "Middle-way Approach" may be necessary and inevitable.
Are you sure HK is a non interfering economy? See my comment above...


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