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  • Aug 20, 2014
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My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 1:52am

Pan-dems get a taste of their own medicine over costly poverty trip

When you spend too much time fighting an enemy, you become like him. That may be why a group of lawmakers led by prominent pan-democrats have decided to spend up to HK$560,000 of taxpayers' money to study poverty relief in Finland and Sweden, just about the most expensive countries you can visit.

The cost of the proposed week-long trip in August includes air fares, airport taxes, hotels, meals, insurance and travel expenses. Led by the deputy chairman of Legco's subcommittee on poverty, Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, the trip has the support of chairman Frederick Fung Kin-kee. Besides these prominent pan-democrats, subcommittee members include the Democratic Party's Albert Ho Chun-yan, unionist leader Lee Cheuk-yan, "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and the Civic Party's Alan Leong Kah-kit. Pro-establishment members include Tam Yiu-chung, Abraham Razack and Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, but it's not clear how keen they are to join the trip, especially now after the media exposure.

It's good that our pan-dems educate themselves. But I would prefer they just bought a few books to teach themselves the basics of the Scandinavian welfare states. Hell, it would be cheaper to fly over in first class a few of the countries' experts if our lawmakers are so keen to learn. I am sure their consulates in Hong Kong would be happy to make the arrangements.

By the way, have pan-dems like Fernando Cheung ever heard of the internet? I've been told it's an excellent - and free - research tool! The two countries are among the most extreme welfare states in the world, the very opposite of Hong Kong's social-economic system. They also have the least income inequality and poverty.

I am sure we could achieve similar results if we decided to turn ourselves into an extreme welfare state tomorrow. There is no mystery about those countries' social-economic conditions.

Over the years, the pan-dems and their media allies have "nickel-and-dimed" government officials for taking overseas business trips, criticisms sometimes justified, sometimes not. They have created an atmosphere in which every business trip by officials is assumed to be illegitimate, corrupt or, at best, unnecessary.

As the Good Book teaches, you reap what you sow.

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tennisboy
Sounds like a northern European party trip to me. If you want to study poverty, go to Ethiopia or Kenya and live in huts with the locals. See how many sign up for that then and how many suddenly have become "very busy" with their schedules.
Byebye
@ Alex Lo "....would be cheaper to fly over in first class (perhaps business class) a few of the countries' experts if our lawmakers are so keen to learn." ~ to fly out experts or academics from the countries mentioned for a briefing to the lawmakers as well as the government officials or anybody involved in the betterment of Hong Kong is more constructive. Moreover, these academics or experts may be able to give more ideas if they are able to experience Hong Kong's environment first hand........and this may lead to more fruitful development and ideas for Hong Kong. Just my humble thought.
donniemcm
there is no secret : taxes.
In HK, sandwich class, rich and super rich are taxed the same amount and a rather low one.
the sun also rises
Once again,this Old Hong Kong agrees with what Alex Lo said about the social economic conditions of both Sweden and Finland which are both just the extreme opposite of Hong Kong's.As information technology advances as days go by,the information that our lawmaker Cheung Chiu-hung needs can be easily be found on the internet:maybe through 'widipaedia'. Right ? There is really no need to spend any public money on this issue by going to two faraway countries to do such a research indeed ! Well said,Alex Lo ! Don't just blame Timothy Tong if our lawmakers commit the same type of 'offences'----wasting public money on excuses of carrying out duties ! Right ?
John Adams
Correction : the filibuster preceded the internet by two thousand years:
From Google in precisely 2 seconds :
One of the first known practitioners of the filibuster was the Roman senator Cato the Younger. In debates over legislation he especially opposed, Cato would often obstruct the measure by speaking continuously until nightfall. As the Roman Senate had a rule requiring all business to conclude by dusk, Cato's purposefully long-winded speeches were an effective device to forestall a vote.
PS :The English term "filibuster" derives from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving originally from the Dutch vrijbuiter, "privateer, pirate, robber"
Hmmm... that seems an appropriate description of the clowns doing it now in Legco
John Adams
A quote from today's SCMP report about the recent mid-term elections in the Philippines rings more than a few bells when I think of today's HK pro-dems :
"The shifting alliances highlight the fact the Philippines has no true political party system. More than 100 parties are registered, cobbled together for the sole purpose of getting candidates elected. As it is, even the candidates supposed to be allies ...have spent time undercutting each other . .. [A] columnist ... likened the coalition candidates to 'scorpions in a bottle' ".
We are not quite up to 100 pro-dem parties in HK, but by 2017 we might get there.
And we already have more than a few scorpions.
PS : Ah yes the internet.... ! A wonderful thing indeed, even though it was invented a couple of hundred years after the filibuster. Last week I thoroughly researched to Ph. D thesis standard a complex technical/economic/political subject that covered both the USA and China. If I had gone (flown !) to meet the original source-people it would have taken me over 3 months work and cost over HK$100K in air fares.
Instead I used the internet and it took me precisely 3 days.
John Adams
Correction : the filibuster preceded the internet by two thousand years:
From Google in precisely 2 seconds :
One of the first known practitioners of the filibuster was the Roman senator Cato the Younger. In debates over legislation he especially opposed, Cato would often obstruct the measure by speaking continuously until nightfall. As the Roman Senate had a rule requiring all business to conclude by dusk, Cato's purposefully long-winded speeches were an effective device to forestall a vote.
PS :The English term "filibuster" derives from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving originally from the Dutch vrijbuiter, "privateer, pirate, robber"
Hmmm... that seems an appropriate description of the clowns doing it now in Legco
johnyuan
The proposed trip isn’t unlike well-off retirees of Ivey league alumni going on an educational pleasure trip. While those alumni pay for their own expanses to expand their knowledge but not so for the Legco members as public is funding it. The public should have the right to approve the expanses. The pubic should judge if the Legco’s even budgeted yearly travelling expanses for this trip are justifiable. Travelling to those Scandinavian countries for poverty research for Hong Kong is more than a suspect. It is an insult to the intelligence of the citizens of Hong Kong. Fresh salmons are tasty but not if shamefully swallowed. Demand the chairman to cancel the trip, period.
impala
I agree it is ridiculous to have the trip, but Mr Lo needs to check his facts. The group in question has not decided to spend the 560k. He is plainly wrong or intentionally misstating things. Not sure which is worse.

The 560k is a figure dreamt up by the media for dramatic purposes. It is based on the assumption that ALL of the group members go on the trip and all would travel business class. Both are very unlikely, especially given the total costs this would amount to. This whole story came about because the group requested a costs estimate, precisely so they could make a reasonable decision on how many of them will go to have a decent costs-benefit balance.

The likely decision, even without this publicity, would have been that a (low) single digit number of members go, and that would they travel economy. The cost per head is then 26k, so about 100k total for for example 4 people.
May I also note that if we are looking for ridiculous government spending, we really need not search this far? Our incompetent nitwit (poverty? what is poverty?) of a financial secretary for instance earns HKD 300k per month. Yes, PER MONTH. Even at its most extreme, this trip would have cost less than two months of John Tsang. In fact, I think we should proceed to express all government figures in "John Tsang Per Month" units (JTPM) to drive the point home. For example: "The trip is estimated to cost 0.5 JTPM" or "The hourly minimum wage now stands at 0.0001 JTPM."

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