You can get a nice funeral wreath with it

Many, many moons ago, in what now seems a distant land forgotten by time, a financial secretary whose name no-one now remembers introduced an annual budget of such dazzling obtuseness that he became an utter laughing stock, and his wife and children had to walk around with paper bags over their heads so nobody would recognize them. Panicking as the full extent of his stupidity sunk in, he blurted out to the populace that he would give them all HK$6,000 each, so they would feel good, shut up, and just let it pass as if nothing had ever happened.

Predictably, the population was simultaneously enthusiastic, contemptuous and, when it came to tiresome details about the logistics involved in distributing the cash, intensely inquisitive. Some booked trips to exotic resorts, some planned purchases of the latest i-Thing, and a few of the scummier sort went around badgering family for loans to be repaid when the money was handed out. But the six grand never materialized, and as the eons passed, and generations of folk grew grayer and more absent-minded, the whole affair slowly seeped away from everyone’s consciousness. Occasionally, a little spark would flicker in the back of the mind upon hearing a word like ‘six’ or ‘thousand’ – but it would vanish again. At the most, people would briefly wonder whether something really happened, or had they dreamt it.

Then out of the blue one day, Treasury Undersecretary Julia Leung stood up in public and confirmed that the Great John Tsang Budget Disaster Hush Money Hand-Out was no myth but did indeed exist, and was definitely on the way. Furthermore, she assured us, families will be able to collect handouts of loved ones who register for the scheme but pass away before payment. This was no minor detail; it was fairly obvious, as memories of the chaotic budget announcement came back, that the way things were going a large proportion of us would probably not live to see, feel, fold and unfold, and smell the delightful aroma of the cash in our warm, clammy paws.

For those with powers of recall similar to those of our friend the elephant, an old episode from the dark depths of ancient history comes to mind. The Hong Kong government was replacing the old-style ID cards with new space-age ‘smart’ ones with microchips, so everyone could whiz through self-service immigration channels. That, many of us mused at the time, would be a major logistical exercise. Nearly everyone in the city would have to book a time to go to a processing centre, fill in forms, have fingerprints and photos taken, and endure all sorts of other impertinences, and go back a week later to collect the new magic high-tech card. Yet the authorities pulled it off, getting everyone to turn up, in batches, and have their new cards issued, smoothly, efficiently and painlessly – and with little or no fuss. Even a smile from the fetching Immigration Department girls in their smart uniforms.

So what has gone wrong? Why is a bureaucratic machine capable of re-issuing the entire population with new identity documents suddenly incapable of getting a cheque to each holder of aforementioned ID? “They don’t have everyone’s address” is no answer: they didn’t last time. Are they trying to delay it so we will all vote for the lank-haired, scrofulous Democratic Alliance for the Blah Blah of Hong Kong candidates at the District Council elections in November? (“Hello, please vote for us – we support the government that gave you six grand!”) Is it a ploy to make John Tsang appear even more idiotic and thus by contrast give Henry Tang an aura of high-IQ Chief Executive material? (In which case it’s still not enough.) Is it spiteful foot-dragging on the part of the bureaucrats who resent having to share part of their carefully amassed, jealously guarded, lovingly preserved fiscal reserves with presumptuous riffraff? And for those of us who live to eventually see it: what will it buy by then?

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15 Responses to You can get a nice funeral wreath with it

  1. Morgan (Capital M, small organ) says:

    I have a smart ID-with-a-chip card but as a Permanent Resident ‘Lite’ I am not eligible for the 6k, despite having lived here for over 20 years.

  2. Longtimenosee says:

    What is Permanent Resident ‘lite’?
    Hope I don’t fall into that catagory!?!?

    The MPF plan was clearly the best option, and for a multitude of reasons…

    DAB are responsible for this whole mess, I actually would not want to be the one responsible for working out how to divest money to millions of people…just logistically.

  3. Maugrim says:

    The whole clusterfuck surrounding the $6,000 is just a bonfire fueled by the individual vanities of so many of our ‘lobby groups’, ie, the middle class, the DAB, newly arrived migrants etc. It will get even better next year when the same groups ask why they aren’t getting another $6,000. The Government just keeps giving the bonfire more and more oxygen.

  4. Morgan (Capital M, small organ) says:

    Long Nose, a PR “normal” has submitted tax returns of at least 7 years to the ImmiDept. Consequently he gets PR status and 3-years-allowed-to stay-outside-HK.

    PR “lite” has never submitted tax returns (they never asked me) but has still ‘done’ his 7 years residency. I only have one-year-out-of-HK thingy.

  5. Big Al says:

    It’s all the fault of the civil servants. When they heard that everyone with a MPF would get six grand, they kicked up a huge fuss that they weren’t getting some of it, despite having the most generous pension scheme on the planet. No doubt, not getting $6K would also affect morale. The obvious answer would have been to allow civil servants to opt out of the government pension scheme and join the MPF if they wanted $6K that badly. Of course, none would have done so as they know they’re on a good thing. Instead, we have the clusterfuck we have now. With more jobs for civil servants. Bastards!

  6. Old Timer says:

    I’m in the same boat as Captain Morgan. Still, I wonder if we might scrape through via some unexpected beauracratic oversight.

  7. Stephen says:

    The MPF was and continues to be one of the biggest frauds ever imposed on Honkies – permanent or not.

  8. Longtimenosee says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but how do 18 year olds get the 6 grand then. There is no way they have handed in 7 tax returns!?!?

    Or is that different because they were born in HK or something?

  9. Walter De Havilland says:

    I agree with Stephen, how the government managed to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes with the shite MPF scheme is beyond me. The cartel of banks and investment companies are laughing at us as they pull in our cash, then charge us outrageous fees for the privilege of a piss poor return. I

  10. Claw says:

    W De H, that’s why I have bank shares – at least I get some of it back!

  11. Vile Traveller says:

    The only problem with the MPF is the “M” part. Of course, if that wasn’t there, no-one would voluntarily pay into the “PF” bit, so no jobs for the boys.

    Pension funds. Great for pension fund managers. Not much good to anyone else.

  12. Darovia says:

    Why do we need to keep giving a F*** about civil service morale? Shouldn’t THEY be the ones concerned about the morale of we plebs?

  13. Morgan (Capital M, small organ) says:

    Old Timer: for many years I thought that I was a ‘normal’ PR, until I applied for an APEC card earlier this year. My request was turned down because -according to them- I was not a Permanent Resident. That was quite a shock to my system, to tell you the truth.

    An APEC card allows you to travel to China, amongst other countries, without a visa. (it is designed for frequent business travelers, which I am)

    FYI, my ID-card-with-a-chip says: UO
    My first ID card was issued in December 1983. I shit you not.

  14. patrick says:

    This is a very interesting article. As a rule everything strarts from 1.April. So those people passed away before the registration should get 6000 dollars. I think the administration tried to use the payout as a means to cheat the public to save the blunder in the budget proposals. They do not wish to pay the money when the budget was passed.Why the gentleman who ran an advertisement in local newspaper about election not run an advertisement for the people in Hong Kong for the payout? The executive council approved the civil servants salary 6 to 7 per cent (higher than the inflation) to boost their morale and backpay them in August. They should now have higher morale to think a way to let people have the payout soon. Perhaps they are now well-satisfied with the high increase, and work leisurely to rule or not to work to prevent making mistakes stopping their promotion. No need to complain. I hope I can get the payout in Chinese New Year if I am lucky. Next year, another payout for another budget blunder.

  15. Old Timer says:

    Morgan: I’m UO/1988. It’s an increasingly exclusive club, I suspect.

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