OLD-AGE pensions for Hong Kong, while commendable, are being proposed out of some misguided motive. This is the view of many senior people in the business community. Why is it Hong Kong appears to be intent on foisting on itself a system of payments for the elderly that is completely discredited in the West? Exactly who is asking for the old-age pension system? The Government's pension proposal smacks of the kind of welfarism that has cost so much in the West and has done a lot to make it uncompetitive with Asia. It is not as if the kind of welfarism we see in the West actually works. Inner city urban decay, choked and inadequate hospital services, along with increasing crime rates, all bear testimony to the failure of Western welfarism. In Asia we should take a different route, not repeating the mistakes already made by some developed nations, it is argued. Hong Kong is made of the stuff called capitalism, even if it is blemished by the existence of apparent cartels and mutually beneficial business arrangements. It is for its capitalism that China needs Hong Kong. Wealth has been created by entrepreneurism. A key factor maintaining the economy is the amount of money people in the territory keep in their pockets instead of in the coffers of the Inland Revenue bureaucrats. Hong Kong can date its history back 150 years but, in terms of major population growth, the territory has become what it is today through the endeavours of waves of refugees who chose it as home after World War II, 1949, and the Cultural Revolution. Mistakes have been made on the way, but the strong sense of self-reliance of Hong Kong people, combined with judicious measures to prevent repetition of the past collapses on the basis of positive non-intervention, has created a vibrant economic environment. More right-wing-thinking businessmen believe the old-age pension plan is a sop to the growing bleeding-heart liberal constituency in the territory. The feeling is that it is the last gasp of a Governor who is fast losing power, of a Governor who wants some kind of positive legacy to show off to some future electorate back in Britain. So far, the numbers produced on the whole project are regarded as half-baked, as any actuary with a clear space on the back of a cigarette pack might tell you. This is, however, not the fault of the actuaries who have produced the numbers. It is the fault of the political leadership whose criteria and parameters, on which assumptions were made for the calculations, were left deliberately fuzzy to attract as many people to the basic objectives as possible. The general provision of retirement benefits as proposed by the Government paper will not make a significant difference to the lifestyles of those with private provision, and will not be adequate to allow those in need a satisfactory lifestyle. A more thorough examination is needed of what objective is being sought under the project, argue some business interests. Encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own benefits, as many already do, and the benefits of their relatives, is in line with Hong Kong's experience of social and economic relations. General provision for all is misplaced in the Hong Kong context, and ill-conceived. The argument goes that a levy of one or three per cent on employee salaries represents a new tax on employment. For the right-wingers out there it represents a first step towards higher levels of levies in the future as political parties vie for power with lucrative promises of more welfare benefits. So far, bar the mistakes, Hong Kong has managed fairly well without such welfarism. It is asked where is the crisis that would warrant a step such as the introduction of an old-age pension scheme in Hong Kong, when in the West countries with similar schemes are trying to scrap them. Those in favour of the scheme point to the apparent popularity of the scheme in Hong Kong. Welfarism is always popular when the territory's collective conscience is pricked. The apparent railroading of the pension scheme is regarded as detrimental to Hong Kong's economic future. The advent of the identified social problem that has triggered the provision of the old-age pension solution is not imminent, it is argued. What is imminent is the demise of British policy in Hong Kong.