This being barely mid-May, it is too early to draw up a shortlist for the 2011 Top 10 Dimwitted Government Ideas of the Year Award, but it is a fair bet that when the time comes the Community Care Fund will figure prominently. From the day Chief Executive Donald Tsang proposed it in his 2010 Policy Address, the whole notion of a parallel welfare programme jointly paid for by the government and Hong Kong’s biggest conglomerates invited derision and suspicion. Was it designed to make the increasingly unpopular tycoons look good? Was it intended to further tighten the grip of the plutocrats over the administration?
The city has no shortage of either welfare structures or cash. We have: a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance system, which the government has ample resources to extend if necessary; a charity umbrella called the Community Chest with long experience of distributing donations to good causes; a constant flow of cash to community projects from the Jockey Club; and much more, not least tycoon Li Ka-shing’s fun ‘Love Ideas, Love HK’ campaign, which possibly inspired Sir Bow-Tie to propose a more top-down, bureaucratic and drab version of his own. There were already plenty of ways to fill gaps in welfare provision, so the obvious explanation for the CCF was that it was yet another instrument of government-business collusion.
Yet it soon became apparent that Donald had an agenda of his own here. He made Chief Secretary Henry Tang CCF chairman, giving his likely successor a possible badly needed profile-boost. Inevitably, he packed the CCF steering committee with his usual cronies, from Bunny Chan SBS JP to Anthony Wu GBS JP. It became clear that he wanted to sideline the existing welfare agencies and deliver the goodies to the deserving disadvantaged directly, under CCF branding. The idea is to make Donald and his pitiful administration look good; the contributions from the tycoons are needed simply to make the whole thing look sufficiently non-governmental to enable Sir Bow-Tie & Co to have their own little private welfare system to run and generate public acclaim in which they can bask.
But the tycoons seem reluctant to play along, so far pledging only HK$1.8 billion, and handing over just HK$680 million, of the HK$5 billion envisaged to match the injection of public funds. The Standard quotes the Liberal Party’s James Tien as saying the corporate donors would prefer a say on where the money goes, feel government should plug holes in welfare provision through its usual channels, and dislike the idea of being ‘double-taxed’. In short, they are unhappy because it isn’t collusion – at least not the sort they usually take for granted, in which the executive transfers public wealth to them on a plate. Here, they are being expected to pass (possibly imaginary) opportunities to look noble to an unimaginative, failed government leadership. It’s not often they pass over an opportunity to shoe-shine, even if it is a lame-duck administration, but as men of principle they’re damned if they’re going to fund a PR stunt for Donald.
In theory the CCF could be embarrassingly killed off at birth this Friday when the Legislative Council Finance Committee votes on the government’s request for HK$5 billion (plus 10 full-time staff if you please). But unless the pro-tycoon Liberals have the guts to vote no rather than abstain – which they don’t – the rest of the obedient pro-government/pro-Beijing lawmakers, plus probably some pro-democrats who want to see the money in the slums, will pass it. So it should be a safe bet for coming in at number three or four in the Top 10.
O for decent Governance and a competent Opposition by which to challenge the administration so they don’t continue to ‘entertain’ us with these silly policies which stink of collusion.
China in desperation seeks salvation in an aging Rita whilst in a mind boggling Sub Standard editorial Tycoon worshipping Sing Tao suggest Michael Suen (!) is the administration most experienced trouble shooter.
Well Mikey boy get ready to put some serious hours into untangling the administration from the CCF mess it is about to get itself in and Rita get ready to kill it dead when you take over in July 2012.
It’s interesting given that not all that long ago James Tien was the one trumpeting his own business led community chest. Others seemed to have caught on around the time of various Mid Level based flat scandals, where, as a PR exercise, our oligarchs were mindful of how Joe public felt. Now that things have died down a little, and, as it often happens here, there are those that just waited for everyone to ‘forget’. It is a source of mirth that dimwitted or not, evidently the Government hasnt’t forgotten.
The HK Government says that
“The CCF is a trust fund established under the Secretary for Home
Affairs Incorporation Ordinance (Cap. 1044) with the Secretary for Home Affairs Incorporated (SHAI) as its trustee. Its main objective is to provide assistance to people facing economic difficulties, in particular those who fall outside the social safety net or those within the safety net but have special circumstances that are not covered. In addition, the CCF may implement measures on a pilot basis to help the Government identify those that can be considered for incorporation into the Government’s regular assistance and service programmes.”
Neither the trust nor the giving away of Government money has any legal basis under Cap 1044. Nor is there any legal basis for the Government asking for private donations which are to be mixed with Government money.
Just wait till Broomhead gets her chance and starts throwing tens of billions of (taxpayers’) dollars at ill-conceived ‘technological innovation programs’ (a la Singapore). If that time comes (and please, Big Buddha, let it never be so) we will look back fondly at little Donald’s silly but innocent boy-scout schemes.
I agree that it is a silly project. Its main idea is let chief Executive can be mentioned in history that this is one of his creation as well as the housing project to replace the home ownership scheme. But there is a poor result.
isn’t this just something for Donald to do when he is done as CE.