Apparently, Financial Secretary Paul Chan has not learned from his predecessor, Sir Philip Haddon-Cave, who is best known as the father of “positive non-interventionism”.
At least Chan does not appreciate the wisdom of laissez-faire in the colonial days when it comes to his own watch.
The unpopular secretary raised eyebrows after he was reported to have embarked on a HK$2 million renovation of his official Shouson Hill residence before moving in for the remainder of his four-month term.
The news came after his maiden budget speech in which he repeatedly stressed that the government should only spend money where it should.
It turned out that the makeover costs were less than expected. According to the Financial Secretary’s Office, the amount worked out to “only” HK$830,000.
A large chunk of the money went to building repairs (HK$390,000), exterior wall painting (HK$180,000), replacing furniture and equipment (HK$160,000) and replacing worn-out carpets (HK$40,000). The remaining HK$60,000 was for emergency expenses.
The office said these works were necessary because the 80-year-old building has not been renovated for 10 years
“In view of the deterioration of the parts and facilities in the residence due to their use over a long time, relevant departments, in accordance with established procedures, proposed to carry out some necessary repair and restoration works after the former financial secretary had moved out.“
No word on the other works such as refurbishment of the tennis court, on which Apple Daily said renovation work had begun.
All this came in time to remember how Haddon-Cave, the financial secretary from 1971 to 1981 before being promoted to chief secretary, treated his tennis court.
Back then, the tennis court was overgrown with weed. Haddon-Cave’s children asked him to have it trimmed only to get the cold shoulder.
“We are using public money, so we have to be careful with a single penny,” wrote columnist Lucy Chan, quoting Haddon-Cave’s son.
As a result, the children themselves pruned the grass.
Haddon-Cave’s predecessor, Sir John James Cowperthwaite, was also known for his restraint. He once turned down a request to fix his official residence.
Do not get us wrong. We are not suggesting that the financial secretary’s house needs fixing because its previous occupants — John Tsang included — were not good at maintaining the home.
We are suggesting Chan, with four more months to go and possibly more if Carrie Lam wins the chief executive election, should learn the do-it-yourself approach and try to save public money.
I guess that principle does not change from one administration to the next.
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