Middle class and poor will always be the losers unless policies change

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 June, 2015, 4:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 June, 2015, 4:37pm

The process towards political reform and the status quo are causing economic hardship to many.

Lawmakers from both sides have been a hindrance to the chief executive. They have made it difficult for him to carry out his much-needed reform plans, such as using green belts and reclaiming land for housing, developing new townships, standard working hours and a universal pension scheme.

Hong Kong's grass roots also suffer from policies implemented by our pro-establishment lawmakers, which favour the wealthy and big business.

As tycoons control the property sector, the collusion between property developers and the government has caused Hong Kong's biggest problem - spiralling property prices.

Hong Kong's economic policies have failed the shrinking middle class. Pro-business lawmakers and politicians talk proudly of Hong Kong being the freest economy in the world. They insist that unbridled capitalism brings economic prosperity to all. However, economic freedom has not trickled down to the majority. It has led to one in three elderly living in poverty and one in six locals living below the poverty line. Our wealth gap, as measured by the Gini coefficient, matches that of third-world African countries.

The European Union recently blacklisted Hong Kong as a tax haven, as our tax policies are low and regressive. There's virtually no inheritance or capital gains tax, and this benefits the city's rich.

Hong Kong should move away from a high land-price policy, reducing dependence on the property market, to more sustainable revenue generation from progressive taxation. It must create a more egalitarian society with better social safety nets. It is politics that ultimately decides what kind of economy we have, not the other way round.

However, the pan-democratic lawmakers must not claim democracy means a better livelihood for everyone, either. Pursuing one's own political aspirations by filibustering when genuine livelihood issues that concern the grass roots are being debated is not helpful.

It's wrong to blame Beijing for Hong Kong's economic and social problems, as many come from within our society.

Playing poker with Beijing for more concessions or full democracy is foolish, like going up against a casino. We should have pocketed the chips when we won some.

With the stake being the Hong Kong's people's livelihood and future, the biggest losers aren't the politicians, but the most vulnerable in the city such as our youth, the elderly and the less fortunate.

Bernard E. S. Lee, Tsuen Wan