My Take

Lose weight and fatten your wallet

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 3:51am

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.