• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:42am
NewsHong Kong

John Tsang's budget most unpopular in more than a decade: poll

HKU survey reveals few respondents satisfied with the fiscal plan this year, as financial secretary says sorry for his 'boring' speech

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 February, 2014, 11:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 8:46am

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's latest budget - featuring a smaller basket of one-off relief measures than in previous years and dire warnings about a future structural deficit - is the most unpopular fiscal blueprint in more than a decade.

That was the finding of a University of Hong Kong poll of about 1,000 people, conducted hours after the speech was delivered on Wednesday. Fewer than a quarter were satisfied and 45 per cent were not - giving the budget a net satisfaction rate of minus 20 percentage points, the lowest since 2003.

In 2003, Antony Leung Kam-chung proposed rises in profits tax, salaries tax and new-vehicles tax, which led to his downfall as he had bought a new car shortly before the announcement.

Asked to rate the budget on a scale of one to 100, respondents gave it a satisfaction rating of 49.8, the lowest since the rating was introduced in 2008.

Yesterday, Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said it was unfair to judge Tsang based on the ratings.

"The people expect that when the economy is good, the government should share its [surplus, and] when the economy is bad, the government should relieve the people's difficulties," Choy said. "It isn't healthy … Tsang is trying to turn this around, and it's going to be painful."

Members of the public expressed their dissatisfaction to Tsang in a radio phone-in.

One caller, a mother of three, said he had not done enough for the middle class - raising the tax allowance for those with dependent parents by a "meagre" HK$2,000 to HK$40,000.

"We have to strike a balance as we review tax allowances every year," Tsang said. "The tax allowance for those with dependent parents has been raised a few times in recent years."

At a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, lawmakers also questioned Tsang on how the "future fund" for infrastructure projects - outlined in his speech - would be used. Designed to pay for infrastructure in years of budget deficits, it would comprise the Land Fund, which has HK$219.7 billion in land revenue, and a portion of future surpluses.

Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan doubted the need for more infrastructure with an ageing population. "This government would rather spend its money on bricks instead of the people," the pan-democrat said.

But Tsang said infrastructure projects such as hospitals and old people's homes were a way to prepare for an ageing population.

The financial secretary apologised to lawmakers - though not for his budget's meagre relief measures, but for his "boring" speech that sent many to sleep and led at least one to seek alternative entertainment.

"I found out from today's newspapers that a lot of colleagues fell asleep … I am sorry if the budget was too boring," Tsang said, responding to a taunt by Beijing-loyalist Chan Kam-lam, aimed at Democratic Party veteran Albert Ho Chun-yan. Ho was seen looking at photos of bikini-clad models on his tablet computer during the speech.

Chan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, asked Tsang: "Next time when you reduce the amount of sweeteners, would you also consider adding some salt?" He was referring to a Cantonese slang word for obscenity.

Earlier yesterday, Tsang compared his relationship with the chief executive with his own marriage, in his latest attempt to brush aside speculation that he was at odds with his boss.

Tsang suggested that just as he and his wife agreed on barely half the matters they discussed, it was impossible for officials to agree with each other all the time.

"We work in the same government, and we don't agree 100 per cent on many things," Tsang said. "I spend more time with Leung than with my wife every day."


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This article is now closed to comments

Don't forget.....He's middle class just like us.
John Adams
A comment from a popular and very perceptive blog, which J Tsang would be well-advised to read :
"If you want to know how dire Financial Secretary John Tsang’s budget speech was yesterday, read a newspaper column. Any page, any column. More than one article on the same page, in some cases. While looking at the subject from various angles, they all come to much the same conclusion: the guy is full of c * * p.
"The examples of Tsang’s awfulness jostle for space: warped priorities, incompetent forecasting, this obsessive fear of people being healthier and living longer, the insistence that already-bloated government reserves are insufficient. He lives in a world where the economy and public finances face severe threats and pressures that require the people to sacrifice wealth and prosperity. The underlying principle is that people exist to serve the economy, not the other way round. The flimsily hidden agenda is to continue to channel major revenue streams away from things that make our lives better towards bureaucratic and especially corporate interests, specifically in the property/construction sphere – half a dozen particular families being inordinate beneficiaries."
I think that just about sums it up.
It certainly sums up what the SCMP's own top columnists think : Alex Lo, Tom Holland and Jake van der Kamp
How does one benefits from the tax relief measures when his/her income is way below the lowest threshold?
Dai Muff
It was so boring I spent the time looking at girlie pictures. I was probably the only one though.
And for this ever-lengthier record of policy failures and incompetence, we pay the Chief Financial Nitwit over HKD 300k of taxpayer money. Every year? No. Every month.
Tsang tried to lower expectations with all those leak but the budget was just so empty of any decent planning for the future. We have so much money but such a dearth of talent across our Administration.
How can his budget be popular when he insists that we will have a structural deficit in 7 years. Everyone knows he's bluffing.
You are probably wrong. Its likely to exceed $500k per month when you include perks.
Anyone with a grain of common and financial sense can tell us the fiscal reserves cannot hold on forever. That does not mean that we hoard the money like misers. TSANG is doing exactly that cos he fears being blamed for depletion of fiscal reserves which may or may not happen. As FS, he has the duty to prepare for the worst by apportioning resources to areas most in need and proposing viable alternatives in preparation for a downturn in the economy. Currently he is refining his art of scaremongering. Honestly, a scarecrow could do better than that.
It's called tapering



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