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People first policies would pay

We are in an unfathomable place. The government reaps tens of billions of surplus dollars every year while at the same time so many of us are struggling on the streets and in crumbling homes just to make ends meet.

 

This is not news. We know about inequality; all too well and all too painfully. During election campaigns, social issues dominate the debate and every candidate seems to have a God-given mandate to raise the poor and the needy from their misery.

 

The government does have a commission on poverty, but still work hours go up and the purchasing power people take home goes down. Destitution and despair. No way out. No outlet. Something’s wrong.

 

It begins with fiscal policies. A fundamental revolution is badly needed and planning a surplus for each year must be abandoned. The times demand a substantial funding of social programmes, even if the only choice is to run a moderate deficit.

 

Our current social programmes are mean and lack a holistic security network.

In absolutely every aspect, be it those that already receive some relief or those totally neglected, additional funding needs to be injected.

 

Means testing, whether on the grounds of income, assets or retirement, should be abolished. We need housing provident funds and mandated workplace schemes, as well as government contributions.

 

A retirement plan must be universal, so the less you possess at the age of 65 the more you collect from the public coffers, either in cash or kind.

 

Unemployment benefits as a right must be recognised. Exploitation under the guise of a free market must be taken off the radar and offending company directors prosecuted.

 

University enrollment needs expanding so the next generation can grow up seeing it as part of their life journey and a God-given right, rather than a privilege.

 

The list of what the people need to live with dignity goes on and on.

 

Reducing inequality and guarding against further fracture in the social fabric of society are not the only things calling for a moderate budget deficit, as maintaining continued growth as 2047 draws near will also be necessary. A deficit to fund social programmes would inject enormous confidence into our economy.

 

As the edge in technology and financial services, as well as trade and logistics is ebbing away, the political future becomes vaguer and more repressive. It will depend on our willingness and readiness to invest in people in the street to instil and maintain confidence in the marketplace.

 

A moderate deficit by itself would probably fall short of meeting all funding requirements, so taxing more and revolutionising tax structures are not only inevitable, but the way to go.

 

The wealthy, the powerful, vested interest and the octagons in the Executive Council and Functional Constituency all need to pay more.

 

Likewise, corporations running a profit above a certain level, number of employees or stock market price should have no place to hide.

 

The current tax structure operates in so few categories that a radical expansion, together with a concentration on incremental income brackets of the top earners must become a policy focus.

 

In this way, no social programme should be left under- or unfunded.

 

That would attack the mentality of how we have been organising economic activities and social structures that have bequeathed brutal labour relations, an ossified work environment and indifferent interpersonal relations to an otherwise civilised society.

 

Blame goes to the legitimisation of exploitation of labour in the name of a laissez-faire philosophy. The repercussions are everywhere. There is little justice or morality when so few have so much and so many have so little.

 

Social programmes and democracy are not contradictory, but a combination of individual freedom with social justice. A representative government popularly mandated through the ballot box that is willing and able to intervene forcefully does not belong to a utopia, but a reality we must all strive for.

 

Think big, not small. Fiscal deficit is a starting point, but there will be more, including the breaking up of monopolistic property developers, banks and insurance companies, as well as the abolishment of illegal land hoarding demons.

With enough political will and readiness to sacrifice there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.

 

The promise of equality for all shall return once more to our ancient and great homeland, where there will be no more impoverishing of the poor to enrich the rich.

 

                                 •  Hongyu Wang