A letter to Mr John Tsang on the cash handouts

Adrian Lo, Li Po Chun United World College
Adrian Lo, Li Po Chun United World College |

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Dear Mr Tsang,

As a concerned high school student, I am puzzled by your decision to give HK$6,000 to every permanent resident as a way to spend the budget surplus.

While cash handouts in theory return money to the pockets of the people, I wonder how significant an impact it will have on the economy and social stability.

With rising inflation and housing prices, as well as needs in the areas of health care, education and the environment, surely there are other more pressing issues that could do with the money.

Is there really no better way to improve the quality of life of the people in the long run?

Cash handouts are not a bad thing - for many it is a belated lai see packet. However, we expect our officials to plan for our future, and I do not see how such short-sighted measures will increase Hong Kong's competitiveness or even social stability.

The successes and failures of the budget cannot be measured by small deeds of kindness granted in the short term but rather by the fruits these policies will reap in the long run. It is time for the government to abandon its myopic vision and set its sights on the greater good.

If you, Mr Tsang, have observed the reactions to the cash handouts in Macau over the past three years, you will know that they have done little to promote social and economic stability.

The handouts have in fact drawn criticism from Macau residents, who would like the government to invest more in housing and health care.

There is a strong parallel between the problems facing both Macau and Hong Kong. Grass-roots housing remains a significant problem in Hong Kong, where more than 100,000 people still live in "cage homes" or partitioned rooms. It is becoming harder for the middle class to afford housing and there is still a long waiting list for public housing.

Wouldn't the HK$40 billion in giveaways be better spent on improving living conditions and reducing social discontent?

The budget included just an extra 0.4 per cent for higher education, but this does not even match the 4 per cent inflation rate, meaning universities will have to operate with a reduced budget for the coming year. Only about 20 per cent of students have subsidised places, which is not good for the long-term competitiveness of our workforce.

If resources are not the problem, why isn't the government doing more?

Handing out about half of the expected budget surplus without improving the quality of life is irresponsible and irrational when the city is facing so many problems.

I urge you to consider better use of our resources.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian Lo

Adrian, a Form Seven student at Li Po Chun United World College, is an adviser to the Hong Kong Outstanding Students' Association and Convening Ambassador for Hong Kong for the One Young World Summit