Hong Kong Budget 2016-2017

Hong Kong Budget 2016-2017

Fair-weather friends: John Tsang should beware of his new-found fans in the pan-democratic camp

Praise for budget a cynical ploy to drive a wedge between the financial secretary and his boss, Chief Executive Leung Chung-ying

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 11:10pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 February, 2016, 12:45am

The herd mentality in Hong Kong is astonishing sometimes.

After Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah unveiled his spending blueprint for the year ahead, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to hail him as the answer to all of Hong Kong’s social and economic problems.

I watched his post-budget question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council yesterday, cringing as one lawmaker after another from the pan-democratic camp heaped praise on him for “setting an example” in leadership for his boss, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

One by one, his usually vociferous critics kept comparing him to Leung and telling him he was much better suited to run for the top job next year.

READ MORE: Budget outline or campaign speech? Overcome feelings of suffocation and helplessness amid conflict, urges Hong Kong finance chief

Tsang’s newly converted fans were highly impressed by the parts of his budget devoted to lamenting the Mong Kok riot and calling for reconciliation to heal social and political divides. Tsang was just so much more “reasonable” and “understood Hong Kong” so much better, they told him.

And oh, to listen to them, this is apparently the best of the nine budgets he’s presented so far.

What a load of crock. Firstly, there’s no difference between this budget and his previous ones, in terms of token sweeteners to keep the masses happy while failing to propose longer-term and bolder ideas to tackle Hong Kong’s real financial risks and dysfunction.

READ MORE: Hong Kong budget recap: salaries tax to be reduced by 75 per cent, capped at HK$20,000

Those who criticised him for every past budget he’s presented are suddenly impressed by this one – even though his highly conservative spending philosophy and his personal style remain unchanged.

It’s so obvious the pan-democrats are playing a cynical political game in putting him on a pedestal above the chief executive to make Leung feel their contempt.

Veteran pro-establishment politician Tam Yiu-chung, whose commentary I usually find as boring as watching paint dry, came interestingly close to the truth yesterday, when he suggested they were trying to drive a wedge between Tsang and Leung.

Tsang, being a decent chap, had to hide his pride under that moustache as he brushed off yesterday’s barrage of compliments. But the irony is, all this has probably done more harm to his career, because now he’ll have to work with a boss who’ll be feeling insecure.

Way to go, everyone.