The Statute of Labourers of 1351, it reminds us here, was passed by the English parliament under Edward III. The aim was to ban increases in wages after workers became scarce – owing to a hellish plague of black boils. It complains that…
…the servants having no regard … but to their ease and singular covetousness, do withdraw themselves from serving great men and others, unless they have … wages double or treble of what they were wont to take…
It didn’t work, and to the extent it did, it encouraged the Peasants’ Revolt.
Over 650 years later, and Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary John Tsang wallows in his medieval forebears’ benighted ignorance of basic economics. Low-skilled workers’ salaries are rising, he declares, citing HK$12,000-a-month pay levels for dishwashers. At which point, he should say no more – just sit back and bask in the public’s admiration of the good job he has done. Because, surely, as the official in charge of economic policy, his priority should be to spread opportunity and prosperity.
But no. In the perverse world that is the Hong Kong political system, it seems that the FS thinks he has failed if the economy gives the less well-off a route out of poverty (or non-starvation pay, or whatever you call HK$12,000 a month). The reason: some small-medium companies are finding it hard to pay these wage levels.
If this is the case, it is because other companies are luring the workers away by offering higher pay. What John Tsang should be telling the ‘business sector’ is this: if you can’t afford semi-Third World wage levels like HK$12,000pm – even after de facto taxpayer subsidies in the form of public housing/healthcare/schools/travel for the low-paid – you should change your business model and innovate, or just shut down your crappy, miserable little company and relocate in Vietnam or somewhere.
Even more weirdly, he warns that such a healthy demand for labour – plainly associated with our low levels of unemployment – could lead to joblessness and poverty…
Tsang warned that in the end, businesses that cannot survive the increasing labour costs and adverse economic environment might collapse, which would lead to higher unemployment and reduce spending power.
So, by his logic, Hong Kong would be better off sticking with higher unemployment and lower incomes and general economic weakness, to avoid all this scary, destabilizing poor-getting-a-bit-richer stuff.
(We’re leaving aside the fact that for many enterprises, the crippling business cost is rents – which Hong Kong administrations work hard to inflate by keeping land in short supply and swamping the city with unmanageable numbers of Mainland shoppers. It would be interesting to know whether the gargantuan fortunes now earned by dishwashers in Hong Kong are related to this influx; it would be the first real example that our ‘tourism’ plague has, like the Black Death in the 1350s, actually ‘trickled down’ in some way, in which case Tsang and the ‘business sector’ should be wetting themselves with excitement about it.)
Many observers (see the SCMP online comments) will see John Tsang’s remarks as proof that the man is evil or just dimwitted. Grasping for an alternative explanation in a spirit of charity, I might suggest that he is fearful that he could be called upon to be Chief Executive, and calculates that making such absurd and predictably unpopular, inevitably disparaged statements will help avert this fate worse than death. Go down in history as a total idiot – avoid being CE. Wouldn’t you? Small price to pay. Expect him to be caught with a huge illegal structure attached to his home next.
He’s a pipe smoker. I had to give it up. Unless you have the discipline of a Tony Benn or Manny Shinwell, it slowly clouds the mind. “Das Rauchen macht dumm. Es macht unfähig zum Denken und Dichten” (Goethe). Goethe was also scathing of beer drinkers but had nothing to say about white wine spritzers. You are safe.
John has had chest pains so he already has his get out of Jail (being CE) card ? Frankly until China produces another draft of its Iranian style democracy, that has a chance of suckering the Legislature into passing it, it’s going to be big ask to get anyone (save a complete f*ckwit like 689) to want to be Chief Executive. Dame Carrie obviously doesn’t after last week’s excruciating Dignity of Government (a swig of leaded water) so you do wonder where the next oracle is going to come from … ? It can’t be Vagina can it ?
Considering Porntache has no formal training or qualifications in economics, finance, banking or accountancy, and pulls in upwards of $360000 a month, he should worry about his own glass mansion before throwing stones at “overpaid unskilled workers”. Lest Hong Kong decide that he too should get less than $12,000 a month for his own unskilled labouring.
@LRE: an epithet that could be applied to the majority of the Administration?
@Stephen: Vagina would happily chew off her left underarm if that, somehow, would get her the job. That’s what power madness does to a person.
@Joe Blow: ghastly image of that underarm chewing, but oh so perfect a description of the bald faced opportunist
Rather JT would prove he’s an idiot who wants to be CE, if he thinks having a large illegal structure next to his house is going render him ineligible. If he’s clever and wants to retire on what he has, then he won’t be caught out that way, nor in taking a retirement home on discount in Shenzhen, nor having his family shipping business (which, granted, he’d have to acquire first) bailed out by Beijing.
The last thing any one in Beijing (or Studwell’s Asian Godfathers HK chapter) wants is an honest, clean pair of hands over which they have no lever. To be clean is the best way to be un-electable / unselectable, just like the US Executive, Legislative (and Courts). To even be insufficiently dirty is a curse in that life, ala Sanders.
One wonders, besides the poll tax stupidity, what levers were put on Patton and those before him, but be sure they existed.
Pretty sad for a so called Financial Secretary not to have any understanding of economic fundamentals, economic growth and wage inflation. It’s the economy stupid.
Then again this is same bloke who can’t estimate a budget within tens of billions.
Clearly Tsang is as inept at politics as he is at economics, or he would at least have the sense to claim that the government’s measures to close the poverty gap are working and thus get some unearned credit for the rise in wages enjoyed by those at the bottom of the ladder.
As to Regina, see my previous posts.In the absence of anybody else she will happilly take/grab the position. Be afraid, be very afraid!
My concern is, to where do I emigrate ?
General Patton was a Tory?
Those classic Brigitte Bardot flicks and all that fancy French wine is affecting Mr. Pringles judgment.
“Let them breathe dust.”
As anyone looking out a window in the NT would know this week, the Plutocracy, Beijing”s & Washington’s real gift to Hong Kong and her citizens. The world’s industrial base for the dirtiest industries. Considering the government is pushing to privatize both education and medicine, any salary growth will just disappear down both holes.
Don’t know why JT isn’t kept in the loop about the need to inflate salaries to drain them yet again. Another sign he’s to inept to run with the (prosperity gospel evangelical) wolves. The lupine ex Baptist U under Lufsig’s pack leadership have kicked the Catholics out of the upper admin of the two biggest spending government organs. Hence the long drawn out strangling of Donald the Duck.
Excuse me, I have to hack up a lung now.