• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 1:56am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 12:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 12:43am

If you're middle class, the annual Policy Address ritual is not for you

It's that time of year when many of my colleagues go into spasms of ecstasy and excitement because they get to report on something sacred called The Policy Address.

I confess I used to be one of them but over the years, as the annual ritual systemically degenerates both in terms of the quality of policy formulation and visions and ideas shared, the speech in the Legislative Council and the document released afterwards become little more than inducements to sleep. The latest address has not reversed the trend.

If there is one positive thing you can say about Leung Chun-ying's second address, it's that it's honest: no pretence of any grand plan, none of "that vision thing". That's because it has precious little to offer. Well, there is that land supply thing: 470 000 units over the next 10 years. But we already know that from last year, and over 60 per cent will be in public housing.

So, if you are middle class or above, you may as well forget about getting a copy of the document. There is nothing in it for you: no tax cuts, tax incentives or tax-deductibles in health care or education. Nothing, zero! Well, if you have very young children, you get an extra HK$2,500 a year in pre-school or kindergarten vouchers. But if they are older, well, you are on your own.

The big fanfare from Leung and Co. is that if you are poor, you are in for all sorts of goodies. We should always do more for the poor and low-income families, so I am not objecting in principle, only questioning their effectiveness. The HK$3 billion boost will put a few hundred dollars to HK$2,000-plus into the pockets of 700,000 people from low-income households.

There is a groundbreaking scheme to help children from ethnic minorities master Chinese as a second language to improve their chances of university admission and employment. But whatever dollar sign the government puts on a poverty relief programme, you can be sure a truly effective scheme would cost a lot more.

On a positive note, the first highlight - I am not making this up - in the address' health care section is a new subsidy for "colorectal cancer screening for higher risk groups". You get a subsidised probe up your posterior. Never say Leung is not taking care of you.


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This article is now closed to comments

The middle class pays the most in personal income taxes, yet:
1) they don't get to stay in govt subsidised flats
2) they are shackled forever to the mortgage payments of their pigeonholes supplied by private developers; subjectng their families to cramped quarters their whole lifes.
3) their children do not get any subsidy if they opt for private schools; competition is cuthroat for the decent govt schoools.
4) they lose more of their salary by being forced to commit to the loss making MPF
5) public health care is too crowded/understaffed, so they spend their savings on private health care
And the list goes on.
Indeed, HK's middle class is in the worst position in the world.
In the mean time, the "indigenous villager"Small House Policy gravy train continues to accelerate at the expense of 95% of the population; wonderful.
John Adams
I am just happy and very thankful to be among the middle class and not to need government hand-outs
Few of the status-conscious my-toddler-is-destined-for-Harvard Hong Kong middle class would send their dearest offspring to one of the kindergartens that participate in the voucher scheme. The (perceived) top private kindergartens of course are not happy to submit themselves to the EDB's minimal oversight criteria for the scheme, so they don't participate. And why should they, since they will continue to be able to find plenty of parents among the middle class willing to pay 60~100k a year in tuition fees for the privilege of attending

This is arguably only the top 20% or so, so perhaps not strictly speaking middle class, but the point remains that even the kindergarten voucher scheme is an income-dependent bandaid for the bleeding wound that is our gridlocked education system.

Mr Lo is right. Like virtually all of the (welfare) measures in this and previous policy addresses, there is no vision to overhaul the increasingly two-tier have-nots-vs-haves system and create a more cohesive, egalitarian (harmonious if you must) and just society. The point is to keep the underlying exploitative (class if you wish) inequality intact, preserve the governing/business elites' privileges while meanwhile give the poor just enough so that they don't starve to death spontaneously and/or stage a revolt by Occupying Central. But of course never quite enough that they would gain some actual social mobility and upset the powers that be.
Lol, I like the last sentence! It's what the middle class always been getting from the government, a f*** up the a*** !
The wealthy are never going to get taxed. You're dreaming. Especially not in HK. The wealthy always have the most power and influence.

As far as the poor goes. If they're not living in cage homes, but living instead in public housing, then they have a pretty comfortable life.

Middle class always get screwed over. It's the same way in the USA. Maybe in some European countries it's better though. The wealthy in europe manage to get away from paying their fair share of taxes too however.

Also middle class people who are only thinking about status and sending their kids to a "famous" kindergarten truly are total suckers.
The policy is realistic, not much bubbles in it. Lets fine tune it and make it work.
Why does the Government still believe in the voucher system? Donald Tsang was enamoured by it and introduced the silly concept here. It gives the false impression of choice - the whole system should be scrapped! Agree with your comments on the Policy Address as well.
Whilst discussing the budget this morning on radio 3, Ronny TONG inadvertently revealed his patronizing, sanctimonious attitudes with a statement along the lines "sometimes I go down amongst the people in the districts to hear their views ..." I'm sure the people are grateful that Mr. TONG honours them with his presence.
At least as Middle class, we are not living in cage homes, our kids do not share a windowless space to live and study, we are not in a desperate situation as bad as the poor. Time to look into the taxing system on the wealthy people, or Upper class who many middle class or no class work for.




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