A Task Force to Save the Poor Rich

Appointed to the panel are two prominent bankers, two high-profile businessmen, two investment experts, one realtor veteran, one tax expert, one academic and one cultural representative. Would it be far-fetched to assume that their deliberations will likely center around those who are owners of assets, fixed or financial, and who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered as the needy or have-nots?

Surely the panel will not be holding meetings to discuss how to accelerate the long overdue legislation of minimum wage so that low-skilled workers can make ends meet, or to put an end to the high land-price policy so that overall rents can come down and residential rents can be more affordable and small businesses can have some breathing space (see Wong Yuk Man’s lashing at the LINK REIT), or to narrow the gaping income gap so that the poor don’t get any more destitute?

It takes a heartless government to deny that when bad times strike, the underclass are the ones who need help most and to do nothing about it while clamoring conspicuously to seek to help the business sector and investors.

Perhaps the Task Force members should be reminded of the 1 million Hong Kongers living below the poverty line, and of the basic fact that Hong Kong’s economy has long been suffering from extreme uneven distribution rather than from any sort of chronic weakness. As for the business sector and stock and property investors, they have weathered numerous storms in the past and proven themselves super resilient without any help from government – meaning they work best if left alone.

These passages about the impact of the financial tsunami on the global situation from Thomas Kostigen’s Marketwatch column may offer some food for thought:-

“Developed nations realize that they are intricately tied to one another's economies because of sophisticated financial instruments. When one nation loses so do the others, as we are finding out these days from as far away as China and Korea.

But there's another link that hasn't been much talked about: the emerging markets. The emerging markets rely on the strength of the bigger economic powers to grow, more so even than bigger economic powers rely on each other. The capital-markets erosion has yet to be fully felt in these countries as the trickles they rely on may stop coming down.

And here is the sad end game of the ripple effect: it takes food out of the mouths of children, it shuts the water taps and it sends hordes of people into lives of despair.

We need to solve the world's economic crisis not only for ourselves so we can continue to live at the standard to which we are accustomed, but also so people can continue to live -- period.

The economic crisis we are facing today and likely tomorrow is about more than numbers. There are faces to go along with every digit of value lost. And that is something we will never be able to quantify.

However, we should recognize the losses we are incurring daily before our eyes -- every five seconds a child dies because of a lack of food or water -- are a matter of life and death.”

If the above global prospect is applied to Hong Kong’s domestic economy, the context would be something like this:-

“The underclass are more reliant for help on the middle and upper class than the latter two classes are on each other. We need to solve the economic crisis not only for ourselves so we can continue to live at the standard to which we are accustomed, but also so that underprivileged people can get by. The capital markets erosion has yet to be fully felt among the underclass as the trickles they rely on may stop coming down. The economic crisis we are facing today and likely tomorrow is about more than numbers. There are jobs and small businesses to go, along with every digit of value lost. And that is something we will never be able to quantify. We should recognize the losses we are incurring daily before our eyes are a matter of life and death for the poor.”