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Hong Kong Budget 2013

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah delivered his sixth budget speech on February 27, 2013, in which he unveiled HK$33 billion worth of relief measures and forecasted a surplus of about HK$64.9 billion for the 2012-13 financial year. Economic growth was expected to come in 1.5 to 3.5 per cent in 2013.

NewsHong Kong

Price of entry to middle class? Coffee and tickets to French movies - finance secretary

It's not how much you earn, says financial chief John Tsang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 11:52pm

Never mind how much you earn - even if it is more than HK$300,000 a month as a top government official - if you drink coffee and watch French movies, you're middle class.

That was the definition offered yesterday by John Tsang Chun-wah, under fire for his claim a day earlier to understand the middle class because he was "also middle class".

The financial secretary was speaking on a radio programme in which he faced criticism for doing too little in his new budget to ease pressure on the "sandwich class" - people who are too well off to qualify for subsidised housing but too poor to buy private flats.

"It may not be necessary to set a salary limit [in defining the middle class]," said Tsang, whose salary of HK$302,205 a month is six times the earnings of the highest-paid middle-income earners in the city.

"In fact it is a lifestyle … I have read articles that say the middle class are people who drink coffee and like French movies. I like movies and tea, so there's not much difference with the lives of the middle class."

Tsang said he grew up in a middle-class family and tended to associate with people from the middle class.

In 2011, the government found in a census that - excluding the poorest one-fifth and richest one-fifth - 60 per cent, or 1.2 million, of households earned HK$12,300 to HK$48,850 a month.

In fact it is a lifestyle … I have read articles that say the middle class are people who drink coffee and like French movies. I like movies and tea, so there's not much difference with the lives of the middle class

The Census and Statistics Department said it did not consider the 60 per cent as the middle class, for which the government did not have an official definition.

During the race for the city's top job last year, Leung Chun-ying's rival Henry Tang Ying-yen suggested that families with monthly household incomes of HK$20,000 to HK$80,000 be defined as middle class.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who earns HK$312,785 a month, declined to say if she was middle class.

Lam recalled that when she was sent to Cambridge University to study in her early days in the government, "it was the first time I had travelled abroad, because I came from a grass-roots family". Asked if she drank coffee at home, she shook her head.

University of Hong Kong social work expert Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai suggested that the government should give a clearer classification of the workforce in order to meet their needs.

Tsang's budget received a mixed reception from the public on Wednesday, the day it was unveiled, the HKU public opinion programme found in a poll.

The average rating was 53.6 points, a 3.4-point drop from the budget last year and the second-lowest of his six budgets since 2008.

Of the 1,024 poll respondents, 30 per cent said they were satisfied with the budget. Another 31 per were dissatisfied, while 37 per cent described their level of satisfaction as "half-half". Tsang recorded 56.6 points in his popularity rating after his budget, 1.2 points lower than in a survey conducted early last month.

The sampling error of the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points.


"Why middle class benefits little from budget relief", Video by Hedy Bok


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This article is now closed to comments

This inane comment shows how out of touch HK government officials are with those of us who experience daily life here. They should: ride the MTR at rush hour. Go on a shopping trip to Sheng Shui. Be given a series of tasks that take them all over TST on any given afternoon. Go visit public hospitals and speak with some health care professionals there. Go visit some people living in subdivided flats Kowloonside.
I don't begrudge Mr Tsang's salary: public officials must be adequately compensated to avoid the spectre of corruption. But this comment demonstrates the need for our public officials, from the very top, to be forced to experience REAL Hong Kong at regular intervals--rather than being chauffered between meetings in air-conditioned vehicles. Tsang has well and truly shoved his Italian designer shoe in his mouth this time.
Wow, gov. officials can make some WTF comments once every so often, but this takes the cake....
We knew it all along, but now its official, Tsang is clueless.
John Adams
Update newsflash : Poverty level re-set at HK$300,000 + 20 free french movie videos p.m.
I think this shows why Tsang -o-whiskers consistently gets his budgets wrong by such huge margins of error that if he worked as a private sector accountant he would have been unemployable years ago .
Another update newsflash : Govt Financial Services Dept has set the new entry level for staff as someone who can calculate with a margin of error less less than $100 billion p.a.
Newsflash: govt sets poverty level at $200,000 per month or less.
If John Tsang thinks he is middle class then he is totally out of touch with reality. I find this very disturbing given that he is the Financial Secretary of HK.
hard times !
I really wonder how easy it is to become a middle-class resident in town----drinking coffee and watch French movies (even the DVDs will do ?) as suggested by our Financial Secretary, John Tsang who owns a property in New York City plus another one in Wanchai while living in the mansion located at Shousun Hill Road ( a district where the rich live) near the Ocean Park and receives a yearly salary of HK$4 millions plus a chaffeur-driven BMW provided by the government and other fringe benefits, not to say his power in managing our finance and economic policies. What a joke this beared old guy is telling !
"No class"? Or "classless"?
Wasn't it Marie Antoinette who said "Let them eat cake" when she heard the people did not have enough bread to eat? Things didn't work out well for her, and she was out of touch, too. What kind of cozy civil-servant-track bubble fosters this kind of thinking? The answer, apparently, is the Hong Kong cozy civil-servant-career track. I'll never forget the picture of Tsang giving a reporter the finger outside the old LegCo building. Now he's refined the same message and is delivering it with words. The message? Eat cake! I've got my ducks in a row, see you at the movies.
We have a Greedy Tsang, and now we have Middle Class Tsang. This gaffe will stay with him forever.
I am waking up. Is this Middle Class Financial Chief fit to do his job? Wth such a mighty mighty mindset, I just fell of my chair, reading this.



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