The Corner for Political & Business Views — More on Hardship of Living
In my last article, I mentioned about the future of our youth. This time, I would like to talk about the government’s responsibility in safeguarding livelihood.
Hong Kong is an export-oriented economy, which means it could be influenced by the external economic environment easily. For instance, the US interest rate, as well as the exchange rate of RMB, will both affect the livelihood of Hong Kong people. Since the Hong Kong government has always been advocating the “big market, small government” policy, it will not intervene in the operation of the market. Even in times of global economic storm and the rapid rise of property prices, the government is still stuck to the “positive non-interventionism” practice. Hence, when the operation of free-market influences livelihood, the general public can only rely on themselves and are often left helpless. The implementation of MPF and the privatization of MTR and Link REIT are both good examples.
MPF was originally a policy designed to enhance the retirement protection of the public and is the major axis of the present pension system in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, MPF schemes are managed by private companies and are totally up to the self-adjustment of the market. The results are high fees and charges, low return, being subject to market fluctuation and lack of supervision; these all added up to a joke. There is now no regulation governing how citizens should choose their MPF investment portfolios. One may euphemistically describe this very approach as respecting the choice of people and allowing the free operation of the market. The fact, however, is the government has evaded its responsibility to educate the public and supervise the schemes. As a mandatory contribution system, the objective of MPF is to save money for retirement. It is not worth the candle if people lose their savings because of unwise investments.
Apart from long-term retirement protection, the government has not adequately safeguarded the daily needs of citizens too. Selling public estate malls to Link (i.e., privatization of public asset) is the most obvious example. On the surface, the environment of wet markets and malls appears to be improved after they are taken over by Link, yet behind the story, rents have been increased sharply, leading to lots of complaints from shop owners. The previous wet markets have then been turned into chain stores and the grassroots have no choice but to pay more for what they need, and that is worsening their burden. It is the responsibility of the government to provide reasonable service and facilities to public housing residents. Strict supervision is necessary despite the introduction of the market mechanism, and the livelihood of people should be the priority. “Upgrading assets” at all costs should be avoided because that will lead to the monopoly of the market by certain businesses. The government should never evade the responsibility to ensure the welfare of the public!
Chairman of Asia Allied Infrastructure
(This is a Chinese-to-English translation by Corporate Communications Department. The original article has been published in Headline Daily on 23 September 2019.)
By Mr. Pang Yat Ting, Dominic