Time to give credit where it’s due and recognize the hard work of the Hong Kong government’s Stupid Ideas Department.
Some time ago, it dreamed up a proposal to recycle some of the vast budget surplus to property owners via a rebate in Rates, or property tax. Tiresome critics pointed out that the biggest benefits went to the biggest landlords holding multiple properties. The bureaucrats devised a system to limit the handout to one per property owner, carefully constructing it to be so costly and complex that it’s hardly worth it. Enter Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who points out that this tight-fistedness will also prevent the city’s legions of selfless, kind-hearted landlords from passing the rebate onto their tenants. Detractors are confounded – are we supposed to be helping the rich or the poor here?
After all, these policymakers also came up with the idea of cutting social security payments for needy 60-64-year-olds on the grounds that ‘60 is the new 40’ and these semi-oldies are living for decades longer than the indigent by rights should. Carrie rather wittily blamed rubber-stamp shoe-shining lawmakers for obeying Beijing’s vision of ‘executive-led government’ and passing the thing in the first place. She also sternly pointed out that she is over 60 and works very, very hard. The shoe-shining legislators now feel a need to join opposition to the measure. Officials counter with more complex fixes, whereby impoverished not-so-elderly can claim a different sort of welfare to help cover the difference (subject to enough conditions to make clear who’s boss).
It can’t be easy to craft policies that strike everyone as immensely stupid – it must require considerable effort. Most impressive, however, is the Chief Executive’s own Sociopath from Mars act in the face of protests. The most gifted wordsmiths among us can only dream of drafting such dramatically offensive and insulting responses. And for her next trick: we defend Justice Secretary Theresa Cheng to the hilt.
It all shows – when the Hong Kong government really wants to achieve something, it can.