I have no love for the city’s two dominant supermarket chains. But why blame them for taking government money when it’s being handed out freely to many large corporations that may be equally undeserving or worse? The government’s HK$80 billion scheme (US$10.3 billion) to subsidise businesses to prevent redundancies was always going to be a mess. But officials seem bent on making it even messier. There are bound to be many big businesses that don’t need the money but will benefit from it anyway. This is often attributed to corporate greed, but there is also another issue. Corporate managers and owners have a fiduciary duty to shareholders and stakeholders. If the government is offering subsidies that could boost their financial strength, they may be in breach of their duty not to take it. After all, in the middle of a pandemic, you may be in good financial health today but it doesn’t mean you will remain so down the road. But, faced with criticism for the way the government has handed out subsidies – HK$43.9 billion to 140,000 employers, covering 1.9 million workers, between June and August – officials such as Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong have suddenly decided to impose new conditions on ParknShop and Wellcome in the new round of corporate handouts. This means they must pass on at least some of the subsidies as discounts to shoppers. The two chains not only did not lose money, but have even slightly gained on sales during the pandemic. Even so, they have each already received about HK$100 million in government subsidies. They will be subject to the new condition in the new round. How are officials going to monitor their discounts to prove if they are fair? But why pick on them and not others? What about Nixon Cleaning, a subsidiary of giant developer Sun Hung Kai Properties? The whole point of the scheme is to be indiscriminate because administering who deserves help and who doesn’t will take too long and cost too much. But if the government wants to scapegoat the two supermarket chains, here’s an easy solution. Just tell them not to apply again and use the money saved to hand out to local residents as coupons or subsidies to buy at their shops. Few people, probably not even ParknShop and Wellcome bosses, would complain. It would boost business for the two chains while helping people with their grocery bills.