Does “Future Fund” have future?

At the beginning of this year, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Tsang Chun-wah put forward a conception of “Future Fund” on the base of the Working Group on Long-term Fiscal Planning’s research on Hong Kong public finance. This group, comprising officials headed by Secretary-general of Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau and non-officials elites from related background, was delegated to draw scientific plans of public finance in response to an aging Hong Kong society and governmental long-run fiscal expenditure.

The “Future Fund” was proposed as an imitation of foreign countries. Fund accumulates from the land fun, adding with annual surplus, and underpins infrastructure construction and boosts economy despite government’s continuous deficit in the future.

According to the government bulletin, given the increasing aging population and labor shortage, if the current tax system and rate continue and no external crisis happen, the revenue would increase at an estimated 4.5% on average per annum in next two or three decades.

However, the structural deficit would occur in 15 years at best on condition that the government doesn’t add more benefits, only subject to population and price changes. Facing the deficit risk, Tsang was still positive. In the speech on 26, February, he stated that there was more than HK$700 billion fiscal reserve, with HK$220 billion of land fund, around HK$130 billion for specific use and approximately HK$400 paid for daily operation. Hong Kong’s economy and the government’s revenue would keep going up and expenditure was allowed to increase but its growth must match that of revenue. “By correspondingly controlling expenditure increase, stabilizing revenue and expanding income sources, the fiscal dilemma could be avoided.” said Tsang.

“I think this fund is a good direction but impossible to be carried out”, Chong Wylunn said, former associated chief reporter in Sing Pao and journalist in Finet, “Future Fund is a meaningful warning Financial Secretary gave to Hong Kong government from the politic perspective for not overspending on welfare expansion and so forth”. He pointed out that the fund, if set up, must hunt for a new project that would bring at least 7% return per annum; otherwise, the original investment could not double to more than HK$400 billion. Additionally, land sales contributed around HK$60-80 billion in contrast to 10% annual growth of recurrent expenditure comprising education, medical treatments and social welfare, housing. Meanwhile, considerable pension plus annually paid subsidy allocated to civil servants was estimated to amount to HK$900 billion in foreseeable future. “Apparently, revenue can’t cover expenditure in the long term, let along extra money for the fund.” he explained.

Chan Wysun, chief reporter of Ming Pao’s financial section, agreed that the current financial reserve can only disburse recurrent expenditure. “The government initiated well but it remains uncertain because we have no idea about implementing details.” He said that take inflation into account, the actual amount of money in action was about HK$200, roughly enough for 5-8 years at best. Although the government was in the black now, blind public service constructions at a high cost would bring about troubles. “Imitation of Australian Future Fund is worth considering if Hong Kong will encounter huge deficit in the future, but is it a signal that Hong Kong is to be another Australian for Tsang put is forward now? If so, I approve of steps ahead.”

The government had announced a group further discussion held in July, focusing on how to reinforce governmental assets management and interpret research to residents for a year-end report to Financial Secretary. But so far, there is no following-up official information.

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Different Pharmacy

It is very common that at the entrance of Hong Kong pharmacies are stacked many cans of milk powders, packages of roll paper, boxes of detergent, shampoo and other daily supplier. Walking inside, you will find an array of cosmetics, more suppliers and fancy-packaging, seemingly useful drugs that even don’t ring a bell with you. This kind of pharmacy, or drugstore, is opened everywhere. It happens that in one section of Argyle Street or Shan Tung Street, commercial streets in Mong Kok, you can see two or more at a glance.

Meanwhile, many pharmacies sell diverse Chinese herbal like Astragalus, Angelica etc. and valuable ingredients such as fin and ginseng. Medicine materials are reserved in big glass jars when some are displayed in air. Labeled with “doctor’s visit”, Tai On pharmacy, located in Tai Wai, only concentrates on Chinese medicine, where there is a separated room for the inquiry treatment. Doctor Pan, around sixties, was on duty, and outside were five patients, one of whom was pregnant. Pan inquires, feels their pulse and prescribes by computer, seven minutes per patient on average. Besides much more herbal materials, it offers decocting service, which distinguishes itself from those multi-purpose drugstores.

Hong Kong Students’ Appeal (happened on 27 SEP.)

Hong Kong Students’ Appeal
Last Saturday, on 27 September, a crowd of students still remained seated peacefully in front of the headquartes of the Legislative Council after student activist leader Joshua Wong was arrested the day before, boycotting vetted chief executives by Beijing in 2017 election and demanding an acceptable response from the government.
DSC_0796(by Xu)

“Students are simple and adorable. They protest out of a pure motivation as they aren’t burdened with family and social pressure,” said a 40-year-old Hongkonger who was from Kowloon district and didn’t want to give his name, “Hong Kong has been an idle running society for years,” he added, which meant the city was seemly developing whereas it didn’t run forwards in essence. When asked about the risk of electing an anti-central chief, he said politics was a compromising game, “the Populism would not happen here despite a universal suffrage.”

A junior girl of 15 years old from Tsing Yi district, together with her parents, said “We want to have a word with officers, but the government was always evading a direct talk with students’ representatives”. She once participated in routine gathering of Hong Kong Federation of Student (HKFS in short). Participants discussed in groups and chose a representative for a further decision and “One person, one vote” was a consensus. “We wished for a government that was truly elected by Hong Kong people, rather than being slated by Beijing, and functioned for the sake of this city.”

“Students have applied for this demonstration permission but theirs was turned down while campaigns of pro-central were approved,” said a junior student protestor, Yee Shan Lau who came with her friend to join the demonstration without their parents’ permission, “The central has promised in 2007 an universal suffrage of 2017 but now it’s still vetted by Beijing, which makes Hongkongers feel deceived,” her friend added, “The relationship of Beijing and Hong Kong is like making friends and how can we keep good terms one another without mutual trust?.” According to Yee, protestors clearly knew what they were demanding, a democratic election. They two sat along the street outside the fence in case that police block pathways so that they failed to go home in time.

Goods, which were donated by citizens, was orderly transferred to support protestors and students were equipped with goggles, umbrellas etc., because police unexpectedly employed violent force against them last night.