Hong Kong must share economic success for harmonious society

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 3:50am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 3:50am

Politics and the economy are interrelated. When the grass roots lose out through economic measures, it exacerbates local political discontent.

It is not because the current administration is incompetent, but because many in the middle class find life here getting harder, and this causes mistrust and discontent with the local and central governments.

China's rise is pervasive. It has created uneven growth, inflated prices and contributed to the wealth gap here. That's why it's imperative that economic integration with China must benefit all. Otherwise, mainlanders will always be seen as a threat locally in this perceived zero sum game that only benefits landlords or big business.

Locals feel threatened when they see, reglardless of merit, university places taken up by mainlanders but their own children lose out. They observe long queues at new property launches where mainlanders snap up purchases, driving property prices even higher. Mainland landlords than rent back the properties to locals, who may struggle to pay the exorbitant rents.

Low taxes and unrestricted free markets may be designed to boost the economy but many in the middle class are not benefiting.

Tourism, with the help of a weak currency and no duty on goods, has seen our city transformed into a showcase for Chinese medicine and luxury items, not catering for Hongkongers but mainland shoppers.

This will only lead to more protests among locals. Big business, which champions laissez-faire policies and low taxes, will ultimately suffer too.

There must be a form of redistribution in the form of duties and a more targeted tax regime.

Maintaining a harmonious and stable society will not come through the iron fist of communism and may not even result from democracy, but rather through a fair distribution of the economic pie and providing a good life to the masses.

What need is there to protest or blame mainlanders if every household is able to own a nice home, send their child to a good school, can afford good quality health care and retire comfortably with a good government pension scheme, with no child waking up among the dark walls of a subdivided flat? All this is possible in wealthy Hong Kong. If we achieve it, who will care about another free TV station, and who will sit in the road with Occupy Central?

Bernard E. S. Lee, Tsuen Wan