My Take

'Lexusgate Leung' has had his chance at political office

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 4:24am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 4:24am

Antony Leung Kam-chung is, once again, being floated as a possible candidate for the next chief executive.

Now that's a scary thought. If the rumour is true, the moneyman turned finance chief turned moneyman again wants to be our next leader. It would be like Tung Chee-hwa part deux, without the indisputably gentlemanly virtues of the old man.

Now, I am not worried about "Lexusgate", Leung's purchase of a luxury car before raising the new vehicle tax in 2003. It could have been an oversight; or he was just greedy. It's his policy records we should worry about.

Despite his relatively short tenure, Leung helped Tung impose austerity budgets, civil service job cuts and wage reductions that contributed to deepening the deflation and prolonging the recession.

The duo undermined the public social service sector - in health care, education and social welfare - with dire consequences we are still living with. They damaged the civil service by pretending to run the government on a business model.

A particular vice of the Hong Kong elite is that if you are good at making money, they think you are good at doing everything else, like running a government, which actually has its own set of priorities as its stakeholders are not shareholders, but citizens.

Couple this vice with the so-called new public management philosophy that Tung and Co. inherited from the Brits, and you have the government-as-business model on steroids.

Healthcare, education and welfare cuts hurt the poor, sick and elderly. Cost-cutting undermined government services. Contracts awarded through competitive tendering - with the jobs often going to the lowest bidders, especially those involving public housing, street cleaning and waste disposal - led to widespread malpractice and exploitation of low-paid workers who took over from government employees.

Tung and Leung were firm believers in the then global economic consensus that in a recession the public finances must be balanced, with spending reined in to restore confidence and stability, and pain needed, imposed through austerity.

Leung has had his chance. Let's not give him another shot.