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.