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劉廼強 | 12th Nov 2010 | SCMP | (92 Reads)

The Community Care Fund proposed in the recent policy address has been chided all round - except by the government's spin machinery.

Instead of clarifying and defending the administration's position, the spin doctors chose to frame the opposition voice as a conspiracy against Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, who has been assigned to take charge of the project.

Deflecting the issue is beside the point because, no matter who is at the helm, this ludicrous scheme has to go. The administration, like any other government, has the authority to raise taxes and distribute its revenue in accordance with priorities it deems fit, to maximise the welfare of its citizens.

The government budget, according to the Basic Law, is practically sacrosanct, and should the Legislative Council reject it, the chief executive is entitled to dissolve the law-making body.

Therefore, if the chief executive wants to extend benefits and assistance to a larger group, all he has to do is put the proposal in the budget. With billions in reserves, and another fat budget surplus coming up, the government has all the money it needs to implement its policy objectives.

Instead of taking this well-trodden path, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has come up with a creative solution seldom tried anywhere in the world.

He proposed setting up the HK$10 billion Community Care Fund, in which the government would match up to HK$5 billion from the business sector. Tsang also called on several property tycoons to contribute.

This immediately raised suspicion of collusion between the government and real estate developers.

This saga is unlikely to make the public any less discontent, or ease the general anti-business sentiment.

In their minds, if the chief executive can extract a large amount of money from these tycoons, what will the businessmen get in return? Certainly, it is difficult to imagine the government giving a hard time to firms that donate generously to Tsang's pet project.

And how about those who refuse to donate? Will they be punished?

Once implemented, this huge fund will be the equivalent of decades of contributions to the Community Chest.

This will surely dry up practically all charity donations to make way for a Super Community Chest, a charitable monopoly.

Most voluntary organisations will probably have to rely on this government-administered Community Care Fund for their survival, making them subject to official whims and fancies, and giving them little autonomy.

I believe Tsang's intentions are good, and everything is above board. But with this as a precedent, it opens the door for future chief executives to set up similar funds under different guises to create a financial wormhole to bypass the Legislative Council, to twist arms and to buy favours.

Clearly, this shouldn't be allowed to happen, because it would bring about a systemic change to our present mode of governance through rule of law, with its proper procedures, checks and balances.

To protect the integrity of the establishment, it is the innate responsibility of the pro-establishment camp lawmakers to rise to the occasion and veto this monstrous fund.

If they do not, I am sure the pro-democracy lawmakers will take the lead, and the others will be forced to follow anyway.

The difference is that the dissidents want to bring down the establishment, and it is up to the pro-establishment camp to guard it.