Monday, 6 June 2011

The City of Blunder

Months have passed since Financial Secretary John Tsang announced his fourth budget for the financial year of 2011-2012. Perhaps it seems a bit too late to jump on the bandwagon to add fuel to the vehement criticisms of the administration, but the dramatic events that unfolded were truly astounding. More importantly, however, it served as yet another deafening alarm calling for deep reflections on the aggravating crisis of Hong Kong.

As some scholars and financial professionals have pointed out, the biggest problem of the Hong Kong administration exposed in the current farce is that it seems to have voluntarily given up the long-standing guiding principles of public finance management to the agenda of the populist politicians – be they the pro-Beijing conservatives or the pro-democracy factions. As we can see in their response to the first budget speech delivered on 23 February, those ladies and gentlemen do not seem to look very much different from the senior government leaders in terms of the length of vision, if any, and their know-how about good governance.

Notwithstanding the differences in political systems across cultures and territories, governance is all about effective and efficient use of public resources for the long-term and sustainable well-being of the community at large. In societies like Hong Kong where the wealth gap has been widening at alarming speed, a more egalitarian and reasonable re-distribution of wealth naturally becomes a pressing priority for any responsible government. As history evidently shows, discontent and grievances left unaddressed or inadequately so often become the breeding ground of even more serious problems that eventually prove to be devastating.

Undoubtedly there are myriad ways of re-distributing wealth for greater social justice, but do cash give-outs qualify so?

Administrative details of the cash payouts have yet to be announced after months of the initial but hasty announcement. Ladies and gentlemen, don't you agree that the indefinite delay has already conveyed a strong message about the quality of governance here in Hong Kong?

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