• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 11:09pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 3:51am

Lose weight and fatten your wallet

Property tycoon Ronnie Chan Chi-chung's tirade against Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's policies has again brought into focus the wisdom of freely giving away government money. Reams were written in 2011 when the government paid every permanent resident HK$6,000 in one-off relief. In a society that is peppered with HK dollar millionaires - one in six on the Hong Kong Island side - that did sound like an odd policy.

Despite outrage in some quarters, most promptly signed up and gladly took the money. Even people who hold permanent residency but do not live here made a beeline to pocket the sum.

As a permanent resident, I also got the money. But taking into account one's obligation to society's welfare, I promptly circulated it back into the system, mostly by buying "liquid assets".

Giving tea money to the needy is a laudable effort. But when a society pays its citizens across the board, the wisdom comes into question. Moreover, such methods will also bring in a rise in inflation, economists argue.

This puts generous-minded policymakers in a spot. They know the people in general are happy to lap up any free cash that comes their way. But how to do it, without attracting criticism?

Dubai may have come with the answer for such a dilemma. Over the weekend the authorities there announced a golden plan to overcome obesity that looms into view every Ramadan fasting season. Yes, it does sound ironic but the fasting season adds to girth as people apparently sleep through the day and gorge on all the syrupy festival goodies by night.

So the government there is offering one gram of gold for every kilo you shed during the next 30 days. Those who sign up need to lose at least 2kg to be eligible. Hope this time it works. Somehow, a 2011 plan that gave away cars as prizes in the "Let's Walk" campaign, didn't bring in the desired result.

This golden initiative can now, maybe, guide policymakers here. Next time some financial secretary feels the need to inject cash into the public's pocket, maybe link it to reduction of weight.

With studies showing one five youngsters are overweight in Hong Kong, that will increase the welfare of the public in more than one way and show those economic experts that it actually helps deflation.

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bluefirestorm
It is estimated 4 out of 5 people in Dubai is not an Emirati. Therefore, most of the work, whether it is blue collar or white collar work, is mostly done by foreigners.
While promoting a healthy lifestyle (not to be overweight, exercise, etc) is good, it is not helpful at all to tie up losing weight to some monetary gain. Losing weight is one thing but keeping the lost weight off is entirely another matter. Keeping the weight off requires a mindset and lifestyle change on the part of the individual.
As to suggesting for HK policy to emulate Dubai's policy, even if is in jest, is also inappropriate; considering that there are numerous people in HK who can't even have three decent meals a day and let alone any weight to lose.
@madams
Agree that giving money to millionaires and PR card holders living in Canada was a disaster. Add to that ignoring tax payers like expats who live here but less than 7 years adds a glimmer or discrimination.
Excess reserves should be spent on structural reforms that may improve the lives of HK citizens. Not on more malls as Ron Chan suggested, but perhaps the public transport infrastructure, cleaning the shorelines and water, more public parks, language lessons for immigrants and expats so they have a chance to settle here and succeed, improving public libraries, education for kids with special needs, minimum living standards for elderly
Not all these are good ideas, but sitting here I can easily rattle off dozens of ideas that benefit HK and citizens, not just the wealthy.
Ryan Micheals
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