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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 11:01am
Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 3:03am

Legislators can solve the problem of poverty


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

Old and poor. Rich Hong Kong has about 300,000 such people. Last week's drawing of a poverty line exposed this shame. They scavenge cardboard boxes to survive. They live in caged bed spaces. Some sleep on the streets. Do you know why one out of three old people are poor and why this number keeps growing? Because our political leaders - both before and after the handover - turned a blind eye to our ageing population. Daring to deal with it meant having to stare down vested interests. That is why instead of a universal retirement plan we have the disgrace known as the Mandatory Provident Fund, which was designed not for our retirement, but to fatten up banks and fund managers. So how has the MPF been allowed to last so long? Blame our elected legislators, who prefer squabbling over such things as democracy, foul-mouthed teachers and landfill extensions. There is no pro-democracy or pro-establishment element in helping the elderly poor. And there is no political element in dumping the MPF. Everyone agrees it is a joke, mimicking a pension plan. Together, the pro-establishment and %pro-democracy parties have more than enough votes in the Legislative Council to crush the business lobby. So here is what we suggest: these parties should issue a joint ultimatum that unless the government replaces the MPF with a real pension plan, all Legco business will be frozen. It can be done. These same parties forced a delay to a landfill extension. What is more important: sucking up to the "not in my backyard" activists, as lawmakers did by opposing bigger landfills, or helping the elderly retire with dignity?


Scrapping two-tin limit will bring back chaos

Remember what happened just months ago? We had distressed mothers searching for milk powder to feed their babies, parallel-goods traders inflating prices by cleaning out shelves, mainland-bound trains overflowing with parallel goods, fed-up residents of border towns confronting traders. Who can forget, except for our spineless bureaucrats? They are now wavering on the two-tin formula limit for outbound travellers due to pressure from the business lobby. Suppliers say the limit violates free market principles. So? What is more important: a free market that fattens up suppliers or ensuring local babies have enough food? Officials are using terms such as "stress tests" to see if supplies can meet the demands of locals and hordes of mainland tourists during this "golden week" national holiday. But there have already been reports of unscrupulous suppliers and retailers stocking up to pass the stress test so officials will scrap the rule. Go ahead, scrap it. We guarantee this: once it is gone, the lunatic grab for formula to feed the mainland market will return. Parallel-goods traders will make a comeback and so will the ugly rows between traders and border-town locals.


Paltry wage rise for maids is nothing but a disgrace

Disgusting. Degrading. Disgraceful. We can't think of stronger words aside from obscenities to describe the HK$90-a-month pay rise for foreign domestic helpers. What does this buy? Three cheap fast-food meals? Public Eye is so nauseated we don't want to talk about it any more.


Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host. mickchug@gmail.com




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This article is now closed to comments

Very well said Michael !
I hate to see the curled bodies of these old people, struggling for a dog's living, right in front of our eyes, in the busy streets of our CBD and in the filthy scavenger lanes of the old districts of HK. All these unpleasant scenes just put all we HK people to shame.
The old woman scavenging cardboard in the picture appears to wear a jade bracelet and a ring. She may not be a poor representative. SCMP should be careful in choosing picture! There is a Chinese saying - if you are not a fish, you don't know the pleasure of a fish. The old woman may like to scavenge cardboard to occupy her time - who knows. If last week's drawing of a poverty line exposed the shame, why Government has to do it?
Well said, Michael. It's about time someone pointed out in plain language how much those that can make a difference to the HK underprivileged include legislators from all sides of the political spectrum who should be just as accountable as the government.
A few weeks ago, a heated discussion started up with some friends over Hong Kong's lack of universal retirement plan(MPF excluded). To my horror I was told Hong Kong offers a universal retirement plan to it's senior citizens - Welfare!! Sadly confirmed by the lack of action coming out of the SAR government recently.
I do think those respected legislators, in addition to the government, should also be blamed for the plight of Hong Kong today. Not only should they take a responsibility for such lot of failed measures made by the previous government, even the colonial government, but they also have been putting too much time into political contest. We can see that many problems such as housing problem, poverty, and universal suffrage which didn’t happen yesterday. Since they can lash out the ministers fiercely at a time like failed planning, lack of consultation, no comprehensive consideration or whatever, I wonder why they haven’t raised the potential problems or consequences before those bills were passed in the Legco. They legislators should perform the function of overseeing the government whether its implementations or operations go through in an appropriate way, not just yelling at the government, pursuing the responsibility by asking the ministers to step down after the problems come. Our government has undeniably made many mistakes before and after the handover, but the respected legislators should apportion blame to be a failed overseer. Could they perceive any potential mistake that the government could have ignored in implementing policies while focusing on the occupy central movement and the former ICAC chief case?



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