The government that can’t do anything right

Consider two single-mother-with-two-kids households. One has HK$12,000 a month to spend on food, utilities, transport and clothing, while the other has only HK$8,000. Are these two hard-up families equally poor?

To put it another way, consider those people you see/read about who help feed their kids by scavenging at wet markets for leftover produce at the end of the day. Do you think they are more likely to be living in public housing, or in private subdivided units?

For some reason, when Hong Kong established an official poverty line, the idiot bureaucrats didn’t include housing arrangements in the calculation. The result is bad data. A ‘working poor’ family in public housing might spend 10% of its income on rent, while the same family in a private subdivided apartment might see half their income go to the landlord – yet our ‘poverty line’ implies that the two households’ circumstances are the same.

An attempt to fix this has just been rejected by the Poverty Commission.


A university professor of social work on the body claimed that incorporating housing costs in the calculation was too brain-taxing for him. But the real opposition came from what might be called the labour/welfare-lobby subset of the pro-democracy camp, backed instinctively by much of Hong Kong’s general population of people who distrust if not loathe the government. Their assumption was that officials would take the new, more-informative stats and claim credit for a miraculous drop in poverty levels in the city.

Whether our leaders, in all their slimy duplicitousness, would try to get away with such a lame sleight-of-hand is debatable (given their past clumsy attempts to con the public over, say, electoral reform, we can’t rule it out). But that’s not a sound reason to keep a misleading poverty benchmark when we could have a more reliable one. The conclusion is that whatever this administration does, people will interpret its intentions as malign. Which means, in short, it might as well give up.

Even if they weren’t being evil on this occasion, the officials were being stupid. The correct way to go about this would have been to present the change in the poverty line as one that would accentuate the hardship suffered by the poor in private rentals, rather than apparently lessen that of their counterparts in almost-free public units. In other words – it would make the government look worse, not better. Frederick Fung and his buddies would have fallen over themselves to approve the proposal.

On the subject of inept governance and unintended consequences: a part-tongue-in-cheek but thought-provoking look at demonized Chief Executive CY Leung as ‘the father of Hong Kong independence’ and the inspiration for a golden age of vivid creativity in the city – here.


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7 Responses to The government that can’t do anything right

  1. Long Memory says:

    Ms Vivienne Chow has finally found her voice. Quite a change from banality at SCMP.

  2. Enid Lucas says:

    Let them eat abalone.

    Asking this Government of property swindlers, offshore hoarders, tax avoiders, money launderers, influence pedlars, flat swappers and expenses chisellers to calculate the relief of poverty is like asking Darth Vader to nurse a basket of puppies.

    May the paups be with you!

  3. Laguna Lurker says:

    More HK creativity: outsourcing crowd control to masked, private security guards using force to remove passive protesters. Where are the police?

  4. dimuendo says:


    Wher is/was this and when?

    At least the man in the white helmet identifiable for assault. Take copy film to police, make complaint, when nothing done make formal complaint, for CAPO to rule not substantiated.

  5. Cassowary says:

    Odd. They already calculate pre- and post- tax and transfer poverty lines. Factoring public housing into the post-tax and transfer poverty rate should not be a big deal. Do it separately as a third calculation if you have to. Put a wolf in office and you get a lame duck.

  6. Chopped Onions says:

    It was a land clearance by Henderson yesterday and the police were on the wings but only managed to arrest some protesters,
    .Typical HK

  7. WTF says:

    The idiots didn’t include overseas/over the boarder housing either. According to my sister-in-law, at her child’s kindergarten are a significant number of families in public housing where either the wife, or both partners own property in Shenzhen from which they draw down rental income. Many are quite open about flaunting their “smarts” to rig the game, seems the desire for face over rides the instinct hide the crime, particularly when no one seems to be making an effort even to study how severe the issue is, much less bring it under control

    This number probably isn’t insignificant, since its Beijing, usually with Guangzhou’s input, who decides which persons get in under the 100 persons per-day quota for one-way permits. While there are some legitimate families re-united under the scheme, apparently bribery plays an important role, and anyone with the wealth to make the bribes usually has much more money stashed away. This same corruption makes approaching the issue political suicide for Lufsig.

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