My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 3:03am

Just whose rainy day is it, Mr Tsang?

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

When you read about cases like that of 87-year-old Lee Lan and her middle-aged son who suffers from Down's Syndrome, it makes your blood boil. He has been on a government waiting list for almost a decade, for a subsidised home for a disabled person. All this time, his mother's health is failing. She worries that after she dies, no one will take care of him.

Their plight was highlighted in a Post story this week. There are thousands of people who suffer from mental or physical disabilities and are queueing for a place in a care home, which takes 10 to 12 years. In a city that prides itself on being rich and modern, this long waiting time is an outrage.

We may worry about never earning enough to buy a home. But our city is full of people from desperate families who don't even have a home where they can be properly cared for.

Hong Kong is sitting on HK$1.38 to HK$1.6 trillion in reserves, depending on how you calculate it, equivalent to 70 per cent of the city's gross domestic product. In 2012/13, our fiscal surplus is HK $64.9 billion - against an original forecast of a HK$3.4 billion deficit. But thanks to officials like our Ebenezer Scrooge of a financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, we won't be using a cent of that if the money doesn't come from our annual fiscal budget.

But year after year, Tsang shamelessly or incompetently projects a deficit, only to correct himself when he delivers a giant surplus. People like Tsang claim we need all that money to build solid public finances or save for a rainy day, but he never defines what he means by these.

Throughout the global financial crisis, he has cited this rainy day argument. But it never came. So we must save again for the next crisis, and never dip into our reserves. But how solid, for public finances, is solid? Our reserves are enough to pay for almost two years of public expenditure.

For our rich government and our powerful tycoons, a rainy day is actually a rare occurrence. But for the weak, vulnerable and poor in our society, every day is a struggle; every day is a rainy day.

Leung Chun-ying ran on an election platform of taking care of the grass roots. And he has started some worthwhile initiatives. Let's press him to do more with our obscenely high reserves.

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