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  • Aug 31, 2014
  • Updated: 9:37am
NewsHong Kong

Bad government policy worsens poverty, says ex-adviser Goodstadt

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 September, 2013, 4:29am

New poverty has emerged in Hong Kong thanks to a decade and a half of bad government policies, says a former head of the Central Policy Unit.

Leo Goodstadt, head of the government's main advisory think tank from 1989 until 1997, said in a recent interview with the Post: "Hong Kong's poverty today is not caused by economic crises. Our economy [for the past 15 years] has been more robust than ever.

"Today's poverty is due to misuse of the city's prosperity and policies which favour businesses and the rich but are terrible for the poor."

In his new book Poverty in the Midst of Affluence, Goodstadt is critical of government administrations - from colonial to current times - for squandering the city's riches.

The book's publication is timely. The city will today set its first official poverty line - set at half the median household income. It is expected to show that 1.3 million people are living in poverty.

Goodstadt said the administration of the first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, was overwhelmed by the post-1997 political situation. As for his successor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Goodstadt said: "Donald Tsang hates poor people."

He said a major problem was that the government had been structured since 1997 to run like a business, with close ties and an obvious leaning to the private sector. The current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, had demonstrated little willingness to challenge these issues, he said.

"Unfortunately, the government is not a business. It should not be making decisions based on economic gain."

Goodstadt's book argues that Hong Kong escaped from poverty by the 1960s, but poverty had reappeared today "unexpectedly in one of the world's most stable and prosperous cities, and was allowed to intensify in the years that followed".

The mentality that "no one deserved welfare" and a fear that welfare would drain the state dry had driven government welfare policies since the colonial era, Goodstadt said.

While most advanced countries had in place by the 1950s five basic welfare programmes - workers' compensation, sickness and maternity benefits, old-age, invalidity and death support, family allowances and unemployment insurance - Hong Kong today only has workers' compensation and a retirement fund that started in 2000.

Hong Kong's new poor are not just categorised by low incomes, he writes, but are deprived in terms of housing, health, educational and welfare needs.

"Welfare has never been high on the political agenda," said Goodstadt, commenting on the government's reluctance to push long-term welfare policies.

Hong Kong's social security system is underdeveloped, he said, with Comprehensive Social Security Assistance - the catch-all net for the poor - being grossly inadequate and its recipients plagued with the stigma of being lazy and unworthy.

Another major issue was housing, with Goodstadt saying Hong Kong had inherited a "squatter heritage". In 2003, the government abandoned supplying new public housing under the Home Ownership Scheme.

By 2011, the annual supply of public housing output had shrunk to 17 per cent of the 2000 level. Prices in the private sector soared by 55 per cent between 2000 and 2011, while monthly household incomes remained below 1997 levels.



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John Adams
"Donald Tsang hates poor people."
So that's what Tsang meant when he ran for re-election as CE with the slogan :
" I'll get the job done" !
In other words : "I promise to help the rich and s-c-r-e-w the poor (and the environment they have to live in)"
Well Sir Donald : You certainly did a good job and kept your election promise
Goodstadt hit the nail on the head when he stated that HK govt has been run like a business since 1997. The fundamental issue is the current crop of so called leaders do not understand the role of government in a relatively free society. We need govt to do the things we can't do for ourselves such as maintaining the rule of law, a healthy environment, safe food and water supplies and a safety net for those who are unable to participate in our collective wealth. FDR once stated that the measure of a society is not how it treats whose who have much, it is how it treats those who have little.
Health care is also a real disgrace. My mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital last week after a fall, and after one week, they're (doctors) trying to get her out of there, claiming that the bed she is in in in an intensive care unit, where it's possible to catch 'something'. There aren't enough beds, beds with patients in the hallways (Queen Mary Hospital, in the midst of the ultimate HK greed and rich area), and then the doctor says she needs surgery on her knees in order to walk. But......a big but....she has to wait in line for THREE YEARS!!!! She lives on her own, still can't walk on her own, they still want to send her home.... UNREAL!!!!!
Donald Tsang has the most responsibility for this appalling situation since he was in the longest, but did nothing. I guess that's why he wears glasses, he can't see 2 feet in front of him...
Allow me to add the following:
Hong Kong is a city none to be found elsewhere. It was found by mostly penniless refugees yet grew into a city with billionaires and millionaires. Undeniably it is an economic success story. It also nonetheless comes with a price. The city is still heavily influenced by these refugees with their first and second generation born in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people therefore see themselves as proof what hard work can achieve – from rag to wealth. Henceforth, the dream of becoming wealthy wrought into a refugee culture. Unfortunately, the passage through hard work to wealth is increasingly hardly guaranteed to everybody. The refugee culture has produced overachievers who not only have been suffocating economic opportunities for the majority especially among the second generation; overachievers also perpetuate their success convincing the majority with illusions. In fact the outcome of the mass in believing the value of the refugee culture holds economic failure in life despicable. Such yardstick for success and failure is how the mass measures themselves and all others as well. Hong Kong hates the poor. Hong Kong must reorient themselves from self and family survival to group and society survival. The fourth generation is already in the making.
From SCMP on 19 July 2013:
Property tycoon Ronnie Chan Chi-chung stepped up his war of words with John Tsang Chun-wah yesterday (18 July 2013), 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.
Mr. Chan is exactly, 100% correct!
CY kept most of Sir Donald's deadwood ministers in place in his administration. New ministers, Paul Chan and Eddie Ng are a laughing stock without any talent or political skills. No change in the mindset within the upper echelons of the civil service either. These people have lived high on the hog for so long they have a distorted view of their positions. As these people mix on a regular basis with the billionaires they feel 'poor' by comparison, hence John Tsang's absurd comment that he is 'middle class'. Only Ko Wing Man and Anthony Cheung command any respect - the rest are just over paid nonentities collecting obscene salaries. The system is in need of a complete overhaul as it is broken and ordinary HK citizens have had enough as evidenced by the number of demonstrations each week-end. HK is becoming ungovernable.
A timely publication of a book – Poverty in the Midst of Affluence -by Leo Goodstadt who was immersed in Hong Kong policy-making tank for almost one decade prior to 1997 and it does bring to light many controversial issues already well-known to the Government and people of Hong Kong! How much attention the points he has raised will receive at government level is a Catche-22 question!


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