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A Shortsighted Budget?: A Not-so-level Playing Field? (29 Feb 2008)

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<p>We begin our show with what&#39;s being referred to as &quot;the big handout&quot;, John Tsang&#39;s maiden budget. It&#39;s mostly been well received. Backed up by a roughly $115 billion surplus, the Financial Secretary gave out $125 billion in subsidies, tax cuts, and investment, and is projecting a small deficit in the coming financial year. Highlights include a one-off grant of $3,000 to each Old Age Allowance recipient, a $1,800 electricity charge subsidy for every household, and an injection of $6,000 into the mandatory provident fund accounts of people who earn less than $10,000 a month. Mr Tsang did shy away from long-term changes to the old age allowance and to CSSA, saying that Hong Kong could face tougher times in the future. But if you don&#39;t think for the long term when you have cash, how will you do so if things get worse? With us in the studio to discuss this are are legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, and Chua Hoi-Wai of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service. Does Hong Kong still have a level playing field? Allegations of increasing favouritism by the government have been around for a while. The rules often seem to be being changed for individuals. Recently, several former politically-appointed officials have taken-up private sector posts without completing a twelve-month cooling-off period. In another incident, Chief Executive Donald Tsang urged banker and legislator David Li to reconsider his resignation from the Executive Council after Li&#39;s payment of a US$8 million civil penalty following an insider trading case brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The Chief Executive also tried to persuade Fanny Law, the former Head of the ICAC, to stay on despite an official board of inquiry&#39;s finding that she had improperly interfered with academic freedom as education secretary. The government also amended regulations so she could stand for election as an NPC local deputy. More worries were expressed when the government announced its lowering of the requirement for academic qualifications in seeking a new Director of Broadcasting. That move led to speculation the post was being tailored specifically for one individual. Concerns were also widespread over the way police handled the release of intimate photographs of singer Edison Chen and friends, and protected him on his return to Hong Kong. Discussing this in our studio are Michael DeGolyer, who heads the Hong Kong Transition Project, and the South China Morning Post&#39;s Editor-at-large, Chris Yeung.</p>

Program: 
The Pulse
Publish Date: 
Friday, February 29, 2008
Station: 
RTHK
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