Taxpayers will be ultimate losers over filibustering

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 4:29am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 4:29am

Over the course of three straight weeks, the headlines of Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's weekly blog went from "Together we achieve universal suffrage" to "Get off", clearly demonstrating his mounting discontent and frustration at the endless filibustering at Legco meetings.

Tsang had warned that the filibustering over the budget bill could result in financial crisis and drag the government into an endless black hole.

We know filibustering is an unorthodox way in parliamentary politics to block discussion by use of delaying tactics. But we also know there is no such thing as a free lunch. So the question is who is footing the bill?

Looking at the use of the tactic worldwide, it is easy to conclude that more often than not, the winners are politicians, not society. Therefore any responsible politicians would only use filibustering as a last resort.

Unfortunately it is a different story in Hong Kong. Since the handover, there have been several cases of filibustering.

The first instance occurred in 1999, when the government decided to abolish the urban council. Ten years later, lawmakers again used the tactic in an attempt to block funding for the construction of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.

The practice has continued in the last two years over the budget, development of the northeast New Territories and the so-called "three-plus-one" landfill extensions and incinerator proposal.

Apparently the battlefield now extends to infrastructure and even old age allowances .

How can we justify the behaviour of a handful of legislators who hijack and upset the normal order year after year?

Legislators who do not want to waste their time and energy in this way should explain why they are sitting there doing nothing to end the filibustering.

The financial secretary among others has already stated clearly the damage of filibustering to the administration, policy implementation, treasury expenditure, social construction and welfare.

The crisis is imminent and ultimately we will all be victims. All extra costs will be paid by taxpayers in the end.

If we do not want to see Hong Kong getting stuck, we should say no to the filibusters. This is our most basic right as voters and taxpayers.

Dr Eugene Chan, chairman, the Association of Hong Kong Professionals