End pointless posturing on poverty

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:38am


The debate on poverty in Hong Kong is heating up again on the back of the Hong Kong government's declaration of an official poverty line.

The reality is, there's already more than enough of a safety net in Hong Kong for the underprivileged - unlike the poor in third-world countries, no legitimate resident in Hong Kong can be starved to death by poverty.

Politicians at large have been calling for the elimination or reduction of poverty in the SAR and this appears to be no more than cheap stunts to grab attention and perhaps some political ammunition (votes or otherwise).

Let's face it, poverty cannot be "eliminated" or "reduced".

The bottom x per cent of a population with the least amount of wealth or income is, by definition, poor and what the value of x is depends on how well one wants to live.

If we start handing out HK$1 million to everybody, then the guy with only HK$1 million is quite likely to be considered poor.

Excessive handouts beyond the subsistence level do nothing more than cause higher inflation and encourage the marginal workers to leave the workforce.

The best we can do is perhaps what we have already been doing - making sure no one starves.

Education in Hong Kong is already effectively free, so basic "upward mobility" is there. Why are we still handing out money to poor children for an overseas field trip or other extracurricular activities?

As a matter of fact, one shouldn't have a nice comfortable life while living on welfare. It should suck to be poor, perhaps life should even stink to be poor. If it doesn't, who will work hard and make an honest living?

The introduction and subsequent elevation of a minimum wage in Hong Kong was bad enough as a handout to the unskilled who don't deserve to be paid HK$30 an hour.

It has likely driven some fringe workers (for example, the unskilled elderly) out of the workforce altogether.

We were lucky that the economic environment was relatively benign when this happened, but the real impact on Hong Kong of artificially elevated labour costs will emerge when we go into another downturn. Furthermore, unions and left-leaning politicians are now calling for a statutory 40-hour working week, which is another anti-market idea and disaster in the making. If one thinks working more than 40 hours a week is "too much," perhaps one should settle for a job with shorter hours that might pay less.

Stop these political stunts and get real.

Samuel Edgar Lee, Clear Water Bay