What have we got to be proud of as Hongkongers? Well, we have the greatest number of Rolls Royce’s per capita, the most skyscrapers, and the most unaffordable housing in the world – signs of a very capitalist, free market economy.
As I’m sure we all know, all this amounts to a much-less-than-equal society; less government intervention and regulation allows businesses to make huge gains. Big companies are reaping higher profits every year; Cheung Kong Holdings reported a 53 per cent jump in profits this year. This is all while wages for fresh university graduates begin to creep under the HK$10,000 a month mark. Combined with ever-increasing property prices, life for your average Joe is getting worse every day.
But things don’t have to be like this. We shouldn’t have to pay exorbitantly high prices for our daily needs; we shouldn’t have to sell various bodily organs in order to pay off our mortgages. Skilled graduates shouldn’t be forced to live on less-than-sufficient wages, either.
What Hong Kong needs right now is a dose of socialism. Though there is a certain stigma associated with the idea of turning some private businesses into government-run firms, it is something that we, as the next generation of leaders, should seriously consider.
What I’m proposing is not a Marxist revolution or a peasant revolt. All I want is for the essentials – big chain supermarkets and real estate developers – to become government owned. Only then can we bring affordable housing to the masses; a system akin to that of Sweden, where highly affordable public housing is available to all income groups. Subsidising the cost of day-to-day consumer goods would also be a great help in alleviating the burden on the average population, too.
Such a radical change is very ambitious indeed. Even if someone had the audacity to put it into action, corporate lobbyists would have no trouble shooting it down in court.
Hong Kong may never adopt a truly fair and equal economic system, but there are still smaller steps we can take to improve our current situation. For one, conglomerates (huge corporations made up of several companies, such as Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong and Hutchinson Whampoa) could be split into several smaller, and independent companies. Increased government regulation in the property market is also needed to curb ridiculous and deceitful sales practices.
Though this may all sound like some sort of crazed Bolshevist rant against capitalist “pig-dogs”, it doesn’t change the fact that our city is in dire need of said measures to maintain stability. The Occupy movement, and the chaos which ensued, is proof enough that society will no longer bow down to crony capitalism. If the Leung administration – as well as the ones after it – wishes to regain public confidence, it needs to consider putting an end to corporate greed and improve the general welfare of the people.