Oh joy! Just as we thought the passing of Golden Week and the clampdown on Shenzhen parallel traders meant our Mainlander problems were over for a while… it’s Invasion of the Baby Locusts at Sheung Shui kindergartens. Remember all those Mainland mothers in the maternity wards? They’re back, and they want your toddler’s pre-school place. This isn’t going to be pretty.
On top of that, welcome to inflationary austerity…
Indeed, through a policy of limiting land supply, some would argue [the Hong Kong government] has refined this process of inflationary wealth confiscation to an art form.
It directly raises large amounts of revenue from land sales as citizens are made to pay an ever-greater proportion of their income on the basic necessity of shelter. Hence, you get a rich government alongside poor citizens.
Some of those citizens are also elderly. And we are currently entertained by the sight of the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council trying to defeat a government measure to increase handouts to them. The government is valiantly fighting back and essentially daring the warriors for truth and justice to deny our less well-off senior citizens some badly needed extra cash.
The government, in effect, proposes doubling the universal Old Age Allowance (HK$1,000-a-month ‘fruit money’) for the elderly who come below a certain level of income and assets but don’t get CSSA – the basic welfare safety net. Technically, it will be a different benefit altogether, called Old Age Living Allowance. The opposition are demanding that the new handout also be universal. Part of the reason is that many ‘fruit money’ recipients are so poor that they should be on CSSA, but they don’t apply because the government forces them (more or less) as part of the application process to denounce their offspring as worthless, heartless scumbags who are letting their old parents starve like Westerners do.
The whole retirement/pension system needs reform, and Chief Executive CY Leung’s administration may actually address it a few years down the road. In the meantime, it’s patch-and-mend, with the pro-dems threatening to prevent even that. (In all fairness, some pan-dems who realise the confrontation is actually about deserving old folk who really could use the extra cash are tempted to support the government).
It would be nice to see the opposition question Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung’s forecasts of how Hong Kong will fall to fiscal ruin unless the new allowance is means-tested. Because of the dreaded ‘aging population’, he argues, the new allowance’s cost will balloon even with means-testing to almost HK$10 billion a year by 2022-23 (there is even a document floating around showing a scary cost projection out to 2041). The freedom fighters among our legislators could – but of course won’t – counter this in several ways.
First, they could compare the burden on taxpayers with the cost of civil service pensions, already running in the hundreds of billions a year thanks to the public sector’s bloated salaries (to which the pensions are directly tied). Trim that, and we can all have double ‘fruit money’.
Second, they could ask why Cheung and his fellow ministers assume so many of our retirees in one, two, etc decades’ time will still be the illiterate and unskilled sort of people who comprise today’s cohort of impoverished 70/80-somethings, born and raised in times of war and upheaval. If the government did its job properly and ensured that we had an educated and productive workforce, no-one would need any welfare in retirement by the 2030s.
Third, our fearless radicals could refer to the Craig Stephens quote at the top about how Hong Kong citizens pass on too much wealth to the property tycoons and the government via overpriced housing. And they could ask whether this has something to do with people’s inability to save enough to support themselves in old age. And then they could ask Matthew Cheung why he needs eight properties in Hong Kong.
Exciting penis-biting poultry update: my Mainland art advisor informs me that yesterday’s intriguing painting is entitled ‘ai-ya’ meaning ‘ai-duck’ (presumably 哎鴨), pronounced the same as ‘aiyaah’ (哎呀), which is what you scream if a bird mercilessly savages you in the manner portrayed. The artist is one Zhao Xiaoguang. He won a prize in a national paintings-by-farmers competition, following which he was later found to be a government official (albeit in a rural area). Fake milk powder, fake dumplings, fake farmers-who-paint. The (presumably genuine) work sold at auction for a very reasonable RMB20,000 in 2007. And yes, there’s a link. Disappointingly, his other works are less… memorable.
It should be that welfare be reserved for those who really need it. Is middle class welfare rearing its ugly head in HK? Probably more a case of ‘kiasu’ in the same way ‘the wah’ of unfairness sounds whenever people in HK feel they miss out on something they feel they are ‘entitled’ to. At my lunch table recently were well off types, on decent pensions, lamenting the stupidity of a relative, who, having long left HK’s shores, had handed back their ID card, thus depriving themself of the free $6000 on offer. This was also interesting in the Standard this week “For example, it will take 10 years to save enough to make a downpayment of HK$3 million for a flat if one saves HK$5,000 a month. For those who save just HK$2,000, achieving the HK$6 million retirement plan would take 250 years without bank interest or investment returns”. Poor kids.
I don’t know where they get those figures from. When the current generation of workers retires we’ll all be living in the lap of luxury on our pots of MPF gold, won’t we?
Yes, Vile. You took the words right off of my keyboard. I don’t care how filthy rich I am when I retire, in the absence of any direct redress against the fund managers, I’ll take all the fruit money I can get as payback for the scandalous ripoff MPF scheme I am forced to pay into.
“Don’t call them Senior Citizens, call them Nearly Dead” said Alexei Sayle. It would be nice to see joined-up government statistics for once. The terrifying graph of a rising elderly population combined with a graph of increasing deaths due to chronic air pollution should show a straight line, which means (to government) there’s actually nothing to worry about and we can remain in our quagmire of inaction until we all become communists in 2047. Those of us who are still breathing, that is.
I use to think that tyrannies worked by suppressing just about everyone.
In Hong Kong however they work differently. The Government machine works to grind down the poor, the old, the underprivileged or those otherwise in want.
The weapon used is bureaucracy and hordes of officious minor civil servants.
Just look at how certain rubbish collectors, hawkers are persecuted by men in caps and epaulettes. Or how the poor aged are humiliated at every turn.
The petty-mindedness of the bureaucracy in libraries, schools, clinics must also be seen to be believed. Government doctors treat patients like septic scroungers.
Gandhi said that the civilization level of a country could be judged by how it treats animals.
In a territory where animals are treated like pampered children however, the humans are often treated worse than dogs.
I wonder what the reaction in Britain would be if elderly people were told on their retirement that they would be given a trolley and a ball of string to go scavenging for cardboard to pay for their meals and luxurious cage in a Dickensian old folks’ dormitory.
Every year the sub standard has an MPF special (anniversary of the wretched scheme?) where a load of smug looking bastards (sorry Fund Managers) blather on and my blood pressure goes off the charts.
I have no intention of retiring here so alas will miss out on my fruit money (what a patronising term) and a ‘means tested’ old age allowance.
Possibly the population will have woken up by then and asked themselves how a pompous second rate bureaucrat like Matt Cheung gets to own 8 properties (I will have to trust the author on that assertion). Yet they have to save up for 10 years to be able to afford the down payment on a HK$3M flat which presumably is on some outlying island or a delightful crumbling part of Chai Wan.
Maugrim, I think you/the Standard may have mislaid a zero ot two somewhere.
In my view the only reason not to make the old age benefit universal is to create a few thousand more jobs for the boys and girls.
It would be bad for our civil servants’ morale if they weren’t allowed to poke about in old folk’s drawers.
Can we means test the civil servants as to whether they deserve their fat cat index linked pensions? In excess of 7 properties should mean no need for any further payouts from the tax payers purse.
That painting by Zhao Xiaoguang gives a whole new meaning to the word “pecker”
We could do with a few dozen hungry geese in Legco, and force all the male members to come in nude……
Rotten Fruit Money
As I see it our esteemed Labour Sec and the legislators who seem to insist on a mean(s) test feel that everything will be hunky dory for those of us blessed with spending our golden years in HK if we have $186,000 in the bank and a monthly income of $6,600. When we reach the golden age of 70 years we will be over the moon to receive an extra $1,090 in fruit money making a princely total of $7,690 a month to squander on extra dimsums, Mark 6 and all manner of other worldly delights. We wont be any further burden on those who seem to resent us.
Reality is far off! Forgetting for the time being that our bank account may have less in it than the LS and his ilk bank every month frim the public purse and our income would not even cover rent for a very modest abode in the city let alone a sack of rice to stave off the hunger pangs we must ask ourselves how we arrived at this sorry state. Surely if clever civil servants have calculated what we need then these must be the means that we must deploy to lead a dignified existence but I am buggered if I can figure out even a few simple things.
1) Take Matthew Cheung’s monthly pay check , make a few deductions to bring it down to $186,000 and put it in the bank. Let Mr Cheung keep the remaining 11 months of his salary after all we now have enough for a decent living. First we tell the bank that we need a regular monthly income and they say , certainly, would you like it in coinage or paper notes. Then the bank says it would be better if they paid the income direct into your bank account then it would gain more interest if we did not need to immediately draw the cash. Truth is, of course, that there are no notes of small enough denomination to pay you the monthly income that they deem worthy of your business! Were the bank a little more enterprising it could buy in bulk and offer to pay you in cans of beer knowing that it would not need to shell out more than one a month to each deserving depositor of $$186,000.
2) We are now up the creek without a paddle. Rent, management fees and rates to be paid and only a couple of thousand coming in from our distant son. Short of collecting cardboard or writing a newspaper column what should I do to achieve the magical $6,600 key to eternal happiness.
Lots of outrage at man’s inhumanity to man today. If you think Blighty is any better, fuck off back there and try it. You’ll be back in Honkers before the ice has melted in my G&T, if you don’t get stabbed to death first.
Here, unemployment is basically non-existent, the streets are moderately safe if you stay away from those fucking trees, and taxes are low. The weather is nice, and there’s something to do of an evening which won’t bankrupt you. Could be a whole lot fucking worse, eh.
Yes, there are some people who are hard up, and something could be done. I don’t mind (too much) paying taxes towards some kind of transitional arrangement… say, a means tested allowance for the next ten years. After that, I suggest that anyone who isn’t a permanent resident need not bother applying. Ditto people who have kids they can’t afford, or anyone who can’t show some level of preparedness for retirement. Lie in the bed you made.
However, most of the hard-uppness (?) is due to the arrival of hordes of the unwashed. No skills, no money, no experience… and a significant majority of *them* can earn better than minimum wage. Why does Hong Kong owe people anything if they haven’t contributed? They can benefit from decent employment opportunities and a safe living environment, free education for their kids and cheap healthcare. That’s *enough*.
Stick some in the bank, buy a flat. Eat, smoke, drink and be merry. Avoid living too long. If you “reach the golden age of 70” unprepared for retirement, that’s your problem, brother. Don’t come to me asking for a handout, because you aren’t getting one. I owe you as much as you have done for me, which is three fifths of fuck all. I’ll contribute enough to keep you from actually dying, and not a cent more.