Among the foamy swirl of yesterday’s Budget-related mouth-frothing: the government might be ‘enriching the private sector’ by buying properties for social welfare facilities. The critics are probably right, but missing the bigger point.
Why have Hong Kong’s officials spent the last 20 years deliberately ramping up land values/property prices/rents? Why sell space that would ultimately be needed for social purposes only to buy it back again at exorbitant prices?
At best, it illustrates the extreme dimwittedness of the policy of starving the economy and population of physical space in order (the theory goes) to raise surplus revenue for the all-important government. Or you can see it as just a massive institutionalized scam.
I declare the weekend open with a range of reading to suit all tastes.
Just as the HK Jockey Club thought we had all forgotten about it – the Financial Times lifts the paywall on its expose last August of how the gambling monopoly exaggerates its charitable role. For good measure, the FT is also reporting on how China’s elites plagiarized their university theses.
In the warm-and-cuddly China ‘soft power’ department… One of Australia’s hordes of United Front billionaire donors, Chau Chak Wing, wins a defamation case – though it’s being appealed, and there’s much more. And the NYT asks whether the US branch of China’s international broadcaster CGTN is the agent of a foreign power or editorially independent? (Background from author here.)
In the glorious motherland itself… Is Xi Jinping’s China Dream turning sour? (Among the latest murmurings: the Chairman of Everything for Life is discreetly restoring some Politburo collective responsibility so he won’t be solely to blame if and when things get nasty.) One possible solution is to inspire the younger generation through correct thinking – say by replacing respected academic textbooks with Marxist ideology. And then there’s the really long-term ultimate fix: abolishing the people and appointing a new one.
In Taiwan… A day late, but all you need to know about the country’s most celebrated anniversary. And on a sweeter note, its most celebrated chocolate.
Finally… Yangyang Cheng, a physicist, on language, science and China (more of her own personal story here).
Today’s music is dedicated to Financial Secretary Paul Chan…
Paul C might not be that dumb, the $20b acquisition of units to provide community services is nothing more than a trick to bolster Capital Works. Administration will continue to rezone existing community facilities that already belong to the government to residential or commercial and sell off. Land Sales go to Capital Works. Then out of operating revenue use funds to buy replacement premises. This not only props up property prices but also guarantees plenty of funds for unpopular white elephant projects at the expense of funding for community services.
The added bonus is that these community projects will be allocated to the usual pro establishment fat cat ‘charities’ and religious groups, Tung Wah, Po Leung Kuk, (the FT report has nailed this), various churches, New Home Association, a branch of Our HK Foundation, etc, under vaguely worded leases that will allow them to generate subsidized employment opportunities for their followers and to use the premises to propagate while keeping the coffers topped up.
This is the same government that despite scathing reports from the Audit Commission allows ‘charities’ to run community facilities as commercial hotels under the justification that there is no definition for the word ‘hostel’.
The leases will be so loosely worded that a few years down the road the ‘NGOs’ can claim private property rights and cash in via redevelopment, and history will repeat itself.