The DAB is such a strange political party. It always grabs the wrong end of the political stick.
Even when the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has a wonderful idea of its own, it will let it pass.
One example is the latest proposal by DAB legislator Ann Chiang Lai-wan, who suggested to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah over dinner this week the idea of a baby fund.
Under the plan, the government would contribute HK$10,000 each year to the baby’s fund from the time it is born until the child reaches the age of 18.
The accumulated funds could be used for the kid’s education or housing.
Knowing how fiscally conservative our financial secretary is, DAB leader Tam Yiu-chung tried to clarify that it was not the party’s idea and would not be easy to execute.
The DAB, of course, does not want to risk committing itself to a program requiring annual public spending of HK$10 billion, since the number of Hong Kong kids under 18 is about one million (more than 50,000 babies are born each year).
After 18 years, when the first newborns leave the program, the cumulative spending would have ballooned to HK$180 billion — most of which would probably go back to the local education and housing sectors.
But Chiang’s idea is a fun one, as it rightly addresses the issue of how the government should be investing for the future and keeping the youngsters happy.
First of all, it is a natural progression of the “ding uk” policy, which gives certain newborn boys the right to build a village home in the New Territories when they turn 18. Chiang’s proposal will be fairer, since it applies to all children regardless of their sex.
It also gives the government a chance to redeem itself after neglecting the baby issue, and that includes how parents of newborns are treated.
Look how generous it is in offering just three days of paternity leave! That shows how much we in Hong Kong care for our next generation.
Had this proposal come 18 years ago, we would have seen smiles instead of frowns on the faces of the likes of Joshua Wong and Alex Chow.
At least we would not have to envy the citizens of Macau, who each receive a 9,000 pataca (HK$8,730) lai see every year from their government.
We are not saying the baby fund would solve all social issues, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Surely Beijing would be happy to approve new incentives to please Hongkongers given the initial failure of Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect to benefit the local stock market and the potential tightening of the framework for universal suffrage in 2017.
We may not be able to stop the exodus of youths whose parents may increasingly prefer to send them abroad at a younger age for obvious reasons.
But at least we can work on those in the next generation who are willing to take a chance in a place that is getting more crowded but dragging its heels in democratic development.
Come on, the baby fund, if it takes off, will cost much less than the airport’s third runway.
For a change, Ann, thanks for your wonderful idea.
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