Monday, 5 May 2014

The Haves and Have Nots

The newest first-class suite on offer from Etihad Airlines for $21,000
The growing divide between the rich and the poor is becoming so absurd now.

In today's paper there was a story about Middle East carrier Etihad Airlines offering first-class passengers the ultimate in cabin space -- a miniature 125-square-foot suite with a closed off bedroom, private bathroom and a dedicated butler.

The cost? $21,000 from Abu Dhabi to London. One way.

And then there was another one about low-income earners in Hong Kong who have no choice but to live in bug-infested cubicles that are 30 square feet.

Mr Yeung, 56, lives in in Sham Shui Po and lives on government welfare that is HK$4,000 ($516) a month, and about half that is spent on rent. He doesn't have much choice in terms of housing options for about HK$2,000.

A family living in very tiny conditions with no privacy
"The so-called home is more like a store room where I put my belongings," he said. Yeung did find a place that wasn't crawling with as many bed bugs, but that would have cost him HK$2,400.

"The bed bugs were so bad in the last two places that I often preferred to spend the night at McDonald's or internet cafe."

And despite the cramped space that is barely liveable, landlords will often evict people like Yeung with higher rents -- sometimes with only a week's notice.

While property prices may have fallen 5 percent from their peak in March last year, the average cost of renting keeps increasing.

Grassroots groups are finding that landlords either only offer short-term contracts or none at all. Currently there are no clear laws for landlords to sign contracts, and so community groups want to make it mandatory. They also want rent control measures in place so that rents, particularly at the bottom end only increase with inflation.

The Housing and Transport Bureau is said to be studying the feasibility of introducing rent-control measures in Hong Kong, but this issue is really urgent and needs to be dealt with immediately.

Isn't it quite obvious that people like Yeung need help with their living situations? It's not like the Hong Kong government is cash-strapped or poor. Our last check was that Hong Kong's reserves are at a whopping HK$1.4 trillion, and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah wants to save that money for a "rainy day".

Many elderly are forced to live in cramped conditions
One would think now would be considered a severe rainstorm, with the poor struggling to make ends meet, but Tsang refuses to loosen the purse strings just a tad to make things a bit more comfortable for people like Yeung, but no.

There aren't many plans to build low-income housing so that Yeung and others like him can have decent roofs over their heads at low rents because the government would rather developers do that for them. But with developers only interested in profits -- and big fat ones at that -- why would they want to do such a charitable project?

So if that is not viable, then the government needs to identify abandoned government buildings or spaces that can be easily converted in to decent shelters for people as quickly as possible.

How can such a rich city have poor people living in such squalid conditions? Or perhaps Tsang doesn't seem to notice them huddled under flyovers and sleeping in cardboard boxes when he is ferried around in his chauffeured car. Probably too busy counting Hong Kong's money pile to see what's really going on...


  1. are you aware before the handover (pre-1997) there are rent controls and renters rights likes the ones you written about above, unfortunately, first thing the likes of Li Ka-Shing, Lee Sau Kee and the Kwoks along with Tung Chee Wha and the CCP was to abolish rent controls.

    are you also aware that the CCP via the DAB and HK gov't are erasing any mentions of the HK British gov't in the public estates? I don't recall any new public estates since the handover in 1997.

    One way to relieve some of this and probably better quality of life is to make a stand on the 2017 CE for true universal sufferage or have HK go independent or just emigrate elsewhere.

    1. Hi nulle So does this mean you will be participating in Occupy Central or packing your bags?