The Hong Kong government complains bitterly that the pandemic is forcing it to run a deficit, and this is unsustainable, and maybe taxes will have to go up – otherwise how can we afford civil servants’ mega-pensions and the Lantau Vision Giant Sandpit Tomorrow Scheme Plan? And yet, come Budget time, it does what any administration must do if it has zero legitimacy but bulging fiscal reserves: it flings money around like dung flying off a high-speed fan.
The headline-grabbing conscience-salver is a HK$5,000 handout to every resident. They could just send us all the cash, or at least supermarket coupons. But oh no – that would be too easy. The payments will come in monthly HK$1,000 chunks, because why spoil the peasants with a whole five grand in one go? And it will have to be spent via a special but unnanounced space-age e-payment system requiring recipients to provide their own blockchain, download the Leave Home Safe app, and pass Beijing’s NatSec anal swab loyalty test. It’ll probably take until summer to organize. Way to piss off the old grannies, guys.
From there on it all goes downhill.
The answer is ‘HK$500 million’. The questions are ‘how much to chuck at cronies to vandalize country parks in the name of tourism?’ and ‘how much to earmark (it’ll never be used) to attract tech talent to replace everyone fleeing NatSec horrors?’ (Is ‘glamping’ the new ‘food trucks’? Yes. Thank you.)
In addition to the ‘glamping’ stuff (it apparently means panty-wetting inadequates spending a night in a tent), there’s another HK$765 million plus plus plus to ‘revive’ tourism. (By ‘tourism’, we mean retail property landlords’ rental incomes.)
Barely heard of a couple of years ago, National Security now features everywhere, and that includes the Budget. The HK$8 billion non-recurrent appropriation isn’t enough for an aircraft carrier. Maybe it’s going on special How to Spot Subversives fun activity packs for primary schools, or simply funding Beijing’s local NatSec Lubianka Office. And then there’s the rest of it.
Most moronic thing I found after flicking through the Budget stuff for three minutes: subsidies to attract real estate investment trusts to list in Hong Kong. Because they sounded cool a decade ago, I guess. Oh, and the inevitable ‘green bonds’.
Main reaction to the Budget is a sort of nostalgia for the good old days when officials would regurgitate this repetitive tripe year after year, and we all took it semi-seriously because it seemed Hong Kong had a future.