CY Leung ally slams 'foolish' HK$200b fiscal giveaway

Tycoon claims financial chief splashed cash 'out of self-interest' on sweeteners when it would have been better spent on hospitals and schools

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 7:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 July, 2013, 5:32am

Property tycoon Ronnie Chan Chi-chung stepped up his war of words with John Tsang Chun-wah yesterday, claiming the financial secretary's dishing out of sweeteners worth nearly HK$200 billion in recent years was "foolish".

Chan, chairman of the Hang Lung Group and a key supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said the money would have been better spent on schools, hospitals and offices.

He followed up his remarks on Tuesday - when he said Tsang was a "big sinner" - by saying the cash could have built 30 Universities of Science and Technology or 30 Queen Mary Hospitals. Tsang hit back on Wednesday by describing Chan's comments as "too much".

In his latest attack, Chan said Tsang kept giving handouts because he feared public criticism.

"He should do the right things for the overall interests of Hong Kong, rather than his own selfinterest. It was foolish for him to keep on handing out goodies," Chan said.

"More shopping malls, exhibition halls and office spaces could be built on the Kai Tak site to push down operating costs for the business sector."

Since the 2007-08 financial year, the administration has handed out HK$170 billion in one-off relief measures.

The vice-chairman of the think tank SynergyNet, Brian Fong Chi-hang, said that instead of spending on one-off relief measures, the administration should have spent the money on driving long-term policies.

Chan also hit out at the government's policy of giving out HK$6,000 cash handouts to permanent residents over the age of 18 two years ago.

"To hand out cash is not a wise thing, especially when it is handed out indiscriminately," Chan said. "Mr Li Ka-shing got HK$6,000 and I got HK$6,000. I happened to give it away, and I am sure many people did the same. It is ridiculous."

Chan said such a practice raised expectations of populism, which was "very dangerous" to any society. He said it would lead the city down a "socialistic" path, with people expecting handouts year after year.

Last night Tsang's office said the government had been practising the principle of "to spend what should be spent" in making use of public resources, including investing in transport, medicine and education. In this financial year, expenditure on infrastructure was estimated at more than HK$70 billion.

It said the one-off relief measures were made after extensive consultations.

A government source said: "Most one-off relief measures were introduced in response to calls by political parties. If the financial secretary didn't offer any relief measures, he would have turned a blind eye to political realities."