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  • 【Second Opinion】John Tsang the populist(Stephen Brown)
  •   1,018 views │ 2017年02月16日
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Amidst all their calls for unity, it is the Chief Executive candidates themselves who are causing, and will continue to cause, even greater divisions within our society.

Now that Carrie Lam has the clear backing of Beijing, John Tsang’s candidature is merely a personal ego trip, one that serves as the  focal point for the public to express their unhappiness with The System.

Tsang should be under no illusion that his gaining popularity is a sign of any personal credibility. He should realise that his candidature serves no purpose other than to provide a conduit for the protest “vote”. Let’s hope he understands this and remains humble as, having written his turgid, vague and generic 73-page election manifesto, he certainly has a lot to be humble about.

This so-called manifesto is but a collection of incoherent paragraphs outlining random ideas. For instance, those about small company tax rates and negative income taxes, which given the complete absence of any quantitative analysis, are merely shiny trinkets which are, in a Hong Kong context, unworkable.

For example, as we do not tax offshore income or investment income, we have no idea of people’s global income. As such, even to contemplate a negative income tax is laughable, especially as every business owner here lives by remunerating themselves in dividends in lieu of a salary, and would presumably be entitled to the full benefit.

Moreover, these are a bureaucratic nightmare. After his decade-long tenure as our Financial Secretary, maybe Tsang has not realized that the strength of our tax system is that it allows us to spend time making the money to be taxed on rather than wasting effort on establishing sophisticated tax avoidance schemes.

And Tsang has apparently dreamed up the reckless and vacuous aspiration of providing public housing to 60 per cent of the population - note that he did not say 60 per cent of the households. Where did this big idea spring from?

Just so he understands, let’s quickly go through some numbers. There are 2.5 million households in Hong Kong, evenly split between the public and private sector, housing around 7.3 million people.

However, there are fewer people living in public housing than private, as the number of people per public-sector household has fallen sharply in recent years. Increased supply of subsidized housing will itself create demand by causing the “splitting” of eligible households.

Given that anyone over 18 with a Hong Kong ID card is eligible for public housing, students and others, who are at the start of their earnings capability, are rushing to bloat the waiting list. This trend has then been further exacerbated by the administrative incentives for older people to divorce, as single people over 58 qualify to jump to the top of the waiting list.

Now, it would be well and good if all this nonsense were coming from a populist businessman turned politician like Donald Trump, but it takes some sober reflection to realize that it is from one who has been running our finances for a decade.

So, while it may be good fun to support Tsang whenever the opinion pollsters call, don't think for one moment that he is capable of doing a decent job.

Beijing has cause to oppose Tsang. This opposition is probably based, at least in part, on his absurd hoarding of money, which may be seen as the cause of some of the social disharmony. In addition, his opposite numbers in Beijing, who hold vastly more senior roles, are likely to be aghast at his continued ability to hide his intellectual credentials, so convincingly, for so long.

As some others around the world are discovering, protest votes for the mere sake of protesting may seem to be innocuous, but they are very dangerous if it gives credibility to shoddy ideas.

It is time for Hong Kong to start to realize that the candidates are best assessed by their capabilities and policies, as well as their desire to change the way Hong Kong is run, rather than by who their sponsors are.

 

 

caption: Mouthing his turgid and vague ideas. (Apple Daily photo)
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