Letters to the Editor, February 23, 2018
Poverty count makes budget surplus a joke
I watch Tycoon Talk regularly on TVB, where the host always says Hong Kong is one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Our property and stock markets also give the same general impression.
But as a study showed in December, about a quarter of Hongkongers lack basic necessities, with the most deprived group being the single elderly. Researchers said the proportion is higher than the official poverty rate of 19.9 per cent, so defining poverty solely by income fails to reflect the true picture of the hardships.
I often see beggars, street sleepers, and elderly poor collecting cardboard boxes, newspapers, aluminium cans and beer bottles by the roadside, just to earn few dollars by selling these for recycling. All this while our wealthy city gets ready to post another huge budget surplus, this time close to HK$160 million.
The government only gives about HK$1,200 to residents over 70 as “fruit money”, no questions asked, and about HK$2,500 to the over-65s after a lot of questions. Adequate living allowance should be given to the needy, and then begging banned or treated as a crime for all (resident or tourist), like it is in Singapore.
Our last optimistic governor, Chris Patten, after considering Hong Kong’s economic growth, and regenerating capacity, proposed to introduce a social pension scheme, but had to give up the idea amid short-sighted opposition over sustainability.
It has become commonplace for the budget surplus to exceed official expectations. So it is hard to believe there is no specific plan to assist the poor or end poverty beyond health vouchers, transport allowance for poor workers and other small subsidies.
A massive surplus becomes a joke when the majority struggles to afford basic necessities.
A.L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui
Time to study why resources are ‘scarce’
Governments should govern for all of the people all of the time, not just for well-placed elites. Some have approximated it, whether social democracies or the very rare wise benevolent dictatorship, but each last only their electoral or natural lifetimes, before ineptitude and the corrupting groundswell of greed sweep back.
Spare a thought for the 10,000 government cleaners and other manual workers outsourced after former finance minister Antony Leung Kam-chung panicked top bureaucrats into thinking up ways to cut the civil service for cosmetic purposes to please the big business community. These most vulnerable of civil servants were delivered into – and remain in – the impoverishment of the masses that goes with the enrichment of the few by privatisation.
Legislators, including top human rights lawyers, failed to acquaint themselves with and probe the government in detail on the legality and integrity of these expulsions in the full context of Articles 100 (employment protection for eligible public servants) and 102 (pension protection) of the Basic Law.
Among many others, this humanitarian tragedy undermines Jake van der Kamp’s assertion that profitability alone is the proven way of allocating “scarce resources”. Typically, resources are only “scarce” worldwide because of upward redistribution and wanton grabbing of public wealth by the greedy, facilitated by politicians holding their narrow socioeconomic view. See John Kenneth Galbraith, The Economics of Innocent Fraud.
Michael Scott, Melbourne
Axing part-time drivers is not a sound solution
I refer to part-time drivers being taken off the roads after the deadly bus crash in Tai Po (“KMB temporarily grounds 209 part-time drivers, to give passengers ‘peace of mind’”, February 15).
Nineteen people died and 65 others were wounded in the accident on February 10, and the part-time driver at the wheel was charged with dangerous driving causing death. Amid the grief, the crash also led the public to voice concerns over the skills and mental fortitude of part-time drivers.
KMB responded by temporarily halting the hiring of part-time drivers and no longer assigning work to its 209 existing ones.
These drivers lost their jobs overnight, and I feel KMB’s action in this regard was misguided. It may ease public worries for now, but will not address deeper issues.
Firstly, it may not be about whether drivers work full time or part time. The problem may be one of attitude. Even though the driver in this case was a part-time employee, not all drivers may react to stress in the same way.
To ground them all is discriminatory, as it is unfair to skilled and responsible part-timers.
Second, with the part-time drivers gone, their full-time colleagues are likely to face heavier workloads. They may need to work longer and more strenuous shifts. This will cause stress and physical fatigue, and may affect the drivers’ state of mind in the long term. It will also affect staff morale and provoke anger towards the company.
Thomas Wong, Tseung Kwan O
Doesn’t faith have to be blind anyway?
Mr Plate, in saying the Catholic Church is right to pursue a deal on bishops with communist China, was just being realistic, whereas retired cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun was his usual “over my dead body” stubborn self, dogmatically and unrealistically resisting anything to do with China.
What’s wrong with a “Church of England” kind of “Church of China” which is both Catholic and reformed? Faith always has to be blind anyway, deal or no deal with China.
Peter Lok, Heng Fa Chuen