How to piss everyone off with HK$10 billion

So it seems the concessionary fares for the over-65s – soon to be over-60s – apply on ferry routes. Nice. Also, expensive. (And it seems the perk encourages laziness.)

The government denies that its sudden announcement of tons of cash for unwashed rabble grassroots (and rich oldies who visit the islands) was aimed at somehow pacifying Hong Kong’s ongoing uprising. This is believable in that such handouts clearly don’t address the administration’s core legitimacy problem. But once you consider that our leaders are too stupid to realize that, the denial rings hollow. They, or their Beijing minders, really think this will make people happier again.

What’s more interesting is that officials have – presumably under pressure from Beijing – had to suppress their instinctive urges to treat the poor with contempt and to kowtow to the tycoons. Maybe not a lot, but enough to be noticeable.

One of the government’s proposals is to force employers of (typically) unskilled workers to give their employees 17 paid holidays a year rather than just the 12 statutory ones (once known as ‘factory holidays’). The plan is to do this gradually (one extra day per year until 2026?), but the bosses are very, very grumpy. Having to pay people to stay at home will inflict mental agony on them.

Could this mean the bureaucrats aren’t their buddies anymore? Businessmen and fiscal conservatives in general are also alarmed by the spending implications of all these extra handouts – a HK$10 billion boost in annual recurrent expenditure, apparently on a whim. Over the last couple of decades, the government has typically recorded annual budget surpluses well in excess of this. But to the traditionalists, the accumulation of reserves is minimally prudent and needed for a ‘rainy day’ (otherwise known as civil service pay hikes and pensions, plus major white-elephant infrastructure projects).

The shoe-shiners have had years to suggest to officials that Hong Kong could, perhaps, be more stable in the long run if it had a more representative political structure. But their snouts were buried too deep in the trough. Now they are saying things like ‘Carrie Lam, stop inflicting new harm on Hong Kong’. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people.

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12 Responses to How to piss everyone off with HK$10 billion

  1. Chris Maden says:

    The fares are absolutely not aimed at the protests, because the protestors are overwhelmingly in their 20s and 30s, so won’t benefit from the fare cuts.

    Increasing the number of statutory holidays, however, is clearly aimed at the protestors because it will increase the number of days on which we can protest.

    Take your pick…

  2. Reactor #4 says:

    I am furious with the age reduction associated with the transport fare concession – I still have a while to go before hitting the big six-zero. Thus despite being an ardent government supporter I won’t benefit. It’s not fair. To this end, I’ll be encouraging the protesters to continue with their actions to see if they can get it lowered by another five years, seven months and three weeks.

  3. Cassowary says:

    A fat lot of use senior citizen public transport discounts are going to be for the brickbats-and-firebombs crowd. I haven’t decided whether this little exercise demonstrates rank incompetence or an obscure “f___ you” to Hong Kong’s youth.

  4. Chinese Netizen says:

    Today’s youth are tomorrow’s pissed off oldies. That is unless they’ve all migrated to Ireland or Taiwan.

    And if that’s the case you’ll be having a LOT more migratory mainlanders from Hebei and Liaoning speaking the proper emperor’s Putonghua around the districts (will be curious to see if their – and Henan’s – despised on the mainland status will carry over to HK).

  5. MarkLane says:

    @Cassowary

    While these elderly-only transport discounts may be an insult to the youth, the real slap in the face continues to be the massive reduction in first-time home buyer down payment.

    As if the world’s most expensive real estate market needed needed even more propping…

  6. Stephen says:

    @Cassowary

    You may decide the concessionary fare age reduction is everything to do with encouraging the 60+ year olds to vote DAB in October ?

  7. Big Al says:

    The people to benefit from this $10M handout are typically the older, less wealthy, less educated folk (i.e. the “grassroots”), formerly DAB supporters who didn’t support the pro-Beijing district councillors in the recent DC elections. Obviously, Beijing does not want a repeat of this “incorrect” result in the next LegCo elections, hence the handout to get the grassroots back on side.

    A Machiavellian plan of such cunning simplicity could not possibly have been thought up by Carrie. Clearly this was the instruction of her new handler, Luo Huining. However, you can clearly see where Carrie’s input was – trying to explain her government’s U-turn by citing “a ‘breakthrough’ in the administration’s thinking”. Such as actually thinking? Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking. Everything that Carrie says is written down for her by Luo Huining in large friendly characters.

  8. Beentheredonethat says:

    … “(otherwise known as civil service pay hikes and pensions, plus major white-elephant infrastructure projects)
    Perhaps the infrastructure projects might be more carefully considered if the government instigated standard working days and working hours. HK construction costs are supposedly very high yet the government gets relatively cheap jobs done because construction contractors make workers toil 6-days a week and for many hours a day without having to pay overtime. Also, if you’re a construction contractor and want to win a government tender, simply get your quantity surveyors to ID all clauses that carry costs (as is their job) and then decide which ones you’re going to ignore (IE won’t budget for). Then claw back profits by screwing your subcontractors who in turn screw their workers. Then, when something goes wrong because you poured sub-standard concrete, skimped on reinforcing bars or failed to manage the risk of unexploded ordnance on site, simply dump the blame on some junior staff so that the company directors can stay out of jail and attend Lighthouse club dinners where they are presented with awards for ingenuity in safety. All of this ably assisted by consulting engineers who’re supposed to be the government’s eyes and ears on site ensuring professional, legal and contractual compliance but instead seem to resort to simple box-ticking and have nothing to say when, for example, reams of documents go missing from an MTR project. Presumably, the various government departments who are complicit in this scandal are aware that it goes on but proceed on the basis that there is always someone else to blame. The point is, it’s the little guy who ends up bearing the cost of this shit so I’m afraid I’m not convinced by the government’s latest platitudes and profligacy. Nothing seems to get done for the right reasons.

  9. Mark Bradley says:

    “You may decide the concessionary fare age reduction is everything to do with encouraging the 60+ year olds to vote DAB in October ?”

    Yeah I hope all of the 60 year old vote DAB in October and stay home Sunday September 2020 when the actual Legco election will be held.

  10. Cassowary says:

    @Stephen – The elderly did vote in the District Council election. The DAB get-out-the-vote effort was ramped up to 11. The problem was that they usually win on low turnout, but everyone else also voted. Further benefits for the elderly will bring diminishing returns, especially when announced 8 months in advance. Everyone will have forgotten about them by then.

  11. Sancho says:

    Some districts already suffer from too many oldies taking advantage of $2 tickets going off for Dim Sum or to distant wet markets during morning rush hour.

  12. Guest says:

    Yesterday’s LegCo showdown suggests that Lam would be better off confining herself to her bunker and not saying anything in public.

    Of course, one can’t govern effectively when one plays recluse, but the more Lam speaks, the more untenable she makes it for her allies, who have an eye on September. That’s great for the pro-democracy camp, but bad for Hong Kong overall.

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