Saturday, March 03, 2007

Election Bribes But No Election

In democracies it is traditional for the incumbent political party to offer the electorate bribes in the form of extra spending or (less frequently) tax reductions before an election.

Although Hong Kong's election for the next chief executive is a matter of weeks away, it is not an election in the true sense of the word. Only a handful of people get to "vote" and Donald Tsang's re-election is a certainty.

None the less, the financial secretary delivered a budget containing many election bribes. With a strong economy and a huge surplus, there was plenty of financial room to move. Most of the bribes were directed either to the lower classes (appropriate) or the construction or film industries (completely inappropriate and unnecessary) and the middle class (appropriate). As someone on a reasonably high income, I had hoped for a cut in the standard tax rate which did not happen. What I did get was:

1. a one time tax rebate capped at HK$15,000 per person;

2. waiver of rates and government rent on properties for two quarters (capped at HK$5,000 per property per quarter);

3. a cut in the wine duty from 80% to 40%. With impeccable timing, I had just taken advantage of a sale to top up the wine fridge. This will drop the cost of a bottle of wine by about 25% according to one retailer.

From my perspective, these are nice to have but in total quite trivial.

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