Public Eye

Tax the fat cats and give the city's poor a break

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 3:36am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 3:36am

Today, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying delivers his second annual policy speech in the Legislative Council. Expect missile-hurling theatrics from radical legislators, after which it becomes a ho-hum affair, with senior officials and lawmakers struggling to stay awake. If you manage not to nod off, two things Leung is expected to say might make your blood boil. They are already making Public Eye's blood boil. One concerns poverty. Media reports say Leung will help the poor with a government subsidy for families earning about 60 per cent or less of the median monthly household income. We find nothing wrong with that. What is sickening is that 150,000 households fall into this category. The median monthly household income of super-rich Hong Kong is a meagre HK$22,000. And yet 150,000 families earn below 60 per cent of that. By subsidising these families, the government is in fact using your tax dollars to subsidise the city's fat-cat employers who are too mean to pay decent wages. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer in this town. Now you know why. And the fat-cat employers have the gall to say we should import foreign workers because of a manpower shortage. Of course there is a shortage if they pay slave wages. People would rather stay home or collect welfare. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah let it be known last week through his unidentified minions that the government's cash reserves would dry up in 20 years because of increased welfare and other spending. We have zero faith in this forecast since Tsang cannot even get his annual budget forecasts right. But if he is that worried, there is a quick fix - tax the fat cats. It is outrageous to use public money to subsidise the slave-wage bills of bosses, while the rich pay the same tax percentage as their underpaid staff.


Leung bows to employers' wishes on MPF rules …

Fat-cat employers will continue getting another subsidy - this one from their own workers. Media reports say Leung was originally set to announce today the scrapping of a ridiculous Mandatory Provident Fund rule that allows employers to pay retirement money from the wallets of the workers themselves. Under this rule, bosses can use their contributions to your MPF to give you severance pay if you are fired or laid off. This, in fact, means you are subsidising the boss who fires you. But reports say Leung has bowed to the fat cats and removed scrapping of the rule from his policy speech. Talk about being gutless.


… And if you are one of the rich, the rules don't apply

More fat-cat news - this one about the fat cats who belong to the Hong Kong Golf Club. It has emerged that the Fanling club has eight large illegal structures. The club members pay just HK$1 a year for the three Fanling golf courses. This means ordinary Hongkongers subsidise the rich to play golf. Yet they still build illegal structures for their enjoyment. What is worse, our weak-kneed Lands Department has turned a blind eye. It says the illegal structures pose no structural danger. Go ahead, everyone, build an illegal structure. Just make sure it poses no structural danger.

Michael Chugani is a columnist and TV show host.