The Matter of Equality

By Elsa Pauelsa-pau
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

The late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew once said in his speech in parliament, and in his own words: ‘Equality is an aspiration, it is not reality, it is not practical’. Mr. Lee also said that if Singapore insists on equality, it must lead to regression.

I can’t help but look at the recent incident in socialist Greece, an interesting example of how a country moves into fiscal indiscipline. The problem goes back to 1974 when the democratic government started introducing a wide range of healthcare and pension schemes. Rather than spending on consumption and investment expenditures, such as infrastructure and education, most revenue was spent on making interest payments and 75% of non-interests payment were going into paying government salaries and other social benefits

Behind this beautiful and stunning Mediterranean country is 11 million people, who are laid back and taking life so easy and have very little morals about meeting up their tax obligations. The Greeks’ bureaucracy and protectionism has also discouraged contribution from the private sector and foreign investment by implementing excessive regulation.

Looking at the scenario of Hong Kong these past years, ever since our chief executives were elected by a small circle of influence, the ability to govern has diminished to rock bottom. With the city fighting between the common law and basic law, and Hong Kong people seeking a new identity and a place to land their loyalty, conflicts between civilians and the local and central governments have never been higher. Dissidents have taken the opportunity to stir up the emotions of particularly the younger generations, in the name of fighting equality or democracy, in their own terms. But who is funding for the equality and the relaxed lifestyle these people want?

While we do not have a bureaucratic government, the desire to push for socialism by the public could still drive Hong Kong to the ground. Hong Kong’s international leading position is fading, with costs to do business becoming higher each day. The property sector and tourism have already been suffering, as the people in Hong Kong chase consumer spending away. 93% of Hong Kong’s GDP is made up of services, of which import and export trade, wholesale and retail trades make up 25% of that contribution.

Pressure for higher wages, additional protection for labor on limiting work hours, more subsidies and obligations required of the employers trying to gain more equality for the workforce are driving SME owners away. While Hong Kong might have been one of the highest in the number of working hours, the city also provides an opportunity for workers who aspire to succeed to do this voluntarily.

The role of the government is to help employers to lead and give people the inspiration and the drive to succeed. If we base our proposition on that human beings are not equal, and give them a fair playing platform a government could offer, those hard working and gifted individuals will become the leaders of tomorrow, who will then be leading the next generation to success.

Whether it is the government or an employer, they have to make decisions, the right decisions, even if they are the most unpopular.

Beware of following the footsteps of Greece. It is not what we want for our next generation. BM