Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 3:03am

Legislators can solve the problem of poverty

BIO

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 TVB’s Straight Talk 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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