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Poverty in the Midst of Affluence: How Public Policies Mismanaged Hong Kong’s Prosperity

How Hong Kong Mismanaged Its Prosperity

Leo F. Goodstadt

Publication Year: 2013

Hong Kong is among the richest cities in the world. Yet over the past 15 years, living conditions for the average family have deteriorated despite a robust economy, ample budget surpluses and record labour productivity. Successive governments have been reluctant to invest in services for the elderly, the disabled, the long-term sick, and the poor, while education has become more elitist. The political system has helped to entrench a mistaken consensus that social spending is a threat to financial stability and economic prosperity. In this trenchant attack on government mismanagement, Leo Goodstadt traces how officials have created a ‘new poverty’ in Hong Kong and argues that their misguided policies are both a legacy of the colonial era and a deliberate choice by modern governments, and not the result of economic crises. This provocative book will be essential reading for anyone wishing to understand why poverty returned to Hong Kong in this century.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

This book is the last of a trilogy which I have written in gratitude to the people of Hong Kong with whom I have spent my life since 1962. The first book, Uneasy Partners: The Conflict Between Public Interest and Private Profit in Hong Kong, investigated the collusion and cooperation between government and the business and professional elite. ...

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Introduction: Pain, Panic and Poverty

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pp. 1-28

Nothing had prepared the people of Hong Kong for the abrupt reversal in their fortunes that was to overtake them in this century. Adversity began with the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis but the economic downturn did not create the calamity that followed. The worst damage was social, where disaster was to be deep and prolonged. ...

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1 - Crisis Economics: Private Profits, Public Pain

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pp. 29-56

Hong Kong did not deserve to suffer disaster in 1997. Its economic environment remained as attractive as ever, and it was underwritten by an excellent infrastructure, much of it technically breath-taking, a firmly pro-business government and an honest and efficient administration. ...

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2 - The Business of Government: Less Politics, No Welfare

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pp. 57-86

Hong Kong has always been a deeply ‘pro-establishment’ society. Support for democratic reforms has never meant a call for radical change. Most people share the same commitment to ‘small government, low taxation’ as officials and the business and professional elite. ...

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3 - Housing: Unending Crisis

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pp. 87-110

A family’s quality of life depends very heavily on the comfort and convenience of its housing. Hong Kong’s misfortune is that its homes are where its Third World legacy is most intractable. The housing stock’s defects are often so serious that they threaten health and safety. They have grown beyond the ability of individual families to remedy. ...

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4 - Social Reforms: Too Little, Too Late

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pp. 111-138

Contemporary Hong Kong is paying a heavy price for the misguided government decisions on social expenditure made decades ago. In the 1940s and 1950s, the colonial administration and its partners in the business and professional elite insisted that the million people who flooded into Hong Kong after World War II had no right to health or welfare services. ...

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5 - Social Reforms: The New Poverty

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pp. 139-168

No matter how stubbornly the government had resisted increased social expenditure and how firmly it had collaborated with the business and professional elite in rejecting social reforms until the 1970s, the development of health, education and welfare services could not be suppressed indefinitely. ...

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6 - The Undeserving Poor

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pp. 169-190

Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) has become the key issue which defines the limits of the community’s compassion. In this century, because families had shrunk in size and life expectancies had lengthened, CSSA had to fill the gap created by the repeated refusal in previous decades to set up a system of social insurance ...

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7 - An Absence of Advocates: How the ‘Welfare’ Lobby Lost Its Voice

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pp. 191-214

The people of Hong Kong are ‘more demanding, better organized, better resourced, and better able to articulate their interests’ than ever before, a well-known political scientist has observed. Public hospital patients, public housing tenants, the elderly and the disabled all have organisations to lobby on their behalf ...

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Conclusions: History Repeats Itself

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pp. 215-234

This book has described a severe decline in the wellbeing of the community and the rise of a new form of poverty. The defining feature of poverty in contemporary Hong Kong is that it cannot be blamed on economic recession, currency collapse, trade protectionism overseas, loss of competitiveness, political unrest or industrial or social strife. ...


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pp. 235-260


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pp. 261-264

E-ISBN-13: 9789888180936
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888208210

Page Count: 276
Illustrations: nil
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1