Date
17 October 2017
MTR Corp., an 80 percent government-owned entity, has been driving up transport costs. Meanwhile, the government has no plans to privatize the rail operator. Photo: HKEJ
MTR Corp., an 80 percent government-owned entity, has been driving up transport costs. Meanwhile, the government has no plans to privatize the rail operator. Photo: HKEJ

Give us democracy, not HK$300

It is funny how much a small transport subsidy won big for Carrie Lam in her maiden policy address.

The government proposal to rebate as much as HK$300 for travelers using public transport managed to distract attention from more controversial issues like the housing shortage.

Well, that is a sweetener for everyone, but it means nothing more.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki yesterday offered to give back HK$300 to Lam in exchange for more democracy but was blocked by the guards.

Think about it. One needs to spend at least HK$1,600 on their Octopus cards to qualify for the HK$300 rebate, which is enough for a few rounds of dim sum and a feel-good moment.

But the simple fact is that MTR Corp., an 80 per cent government-owned entity, has been driving up transport costs. The government has not asked the MTR to adjust its escalating fares; neither does it plan to privatize the rail firm.

So a small rebate will only serve to direct attention away from other more important matters like housing.

Lam also introduced a pilot starter-home scheme that will provide people with HK$34,000 monthly income (or HK$68,000 household income) a chance to buy their first property on Anderson Road, Kwun Tong. It will have 1,000 units available for 55,000 qualified households.

Adding to that, the Housing Department will consider 4,800 new public rental housing units in Fo Tan and Sha Tin that can be converted for sale before the end of next year.

Wait. What about the 270,000 applicants who are in the lower income class, living in poor conditions and waiting for years before they can get a home from the government?

Lam did not promise to solve this longstanding problem but instead turned the table and asked: “How can we make bread if we are out of flour?”

Clearly, bread is home, and flour is land supply. Lam is not a magician who can feed the hungry people and does not want to become one.

Worst of all, there was no shortage of references to “one country, two systems” and, following the national strategy, “One Belt, One Road”.

But there was no mention of “democracy”, or “political reform”.

– Contact us at [email protected]

BK/RA

EJ Insight writer

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