måndag 22 mars 2010

Fattigdom i Hong Kong

"if you want to see capitalism in action, go to Hong Kong"
Milton Friedman

"kapitalismens pärla"
SvD ledare 29 juni 2002 om Hong Kong

Financial Times, 17 mars 2010: "Poverty blights the dream of Hong Kong".

"Tam Kin-wai’s home has a high ceiling. Unfortunately, the single room he occupies with his wife and 12-year-old son is higher than it is wide or long. At about 35 square feet, it has space for two wooden bunk beds fixed to the back wall, a small black-and-white television balanced precariously on a shelf and a little bedside table. Every inch of space in what feels more like a storage cupboard than a place of abode is piled high with clutter: clothes, chipped cups, bedding, an electric fan, a roll of white toilet paper. Guests can either stand just inside the doorway in the only vacant space, or (as I did) sit beside Mr Tam on the lower bunk bed.

Mr Tam, a retired light-bulb maker who came to Hong Kong from mainland China in the 1960s, is one of an estimated 100,000 people in the territory who reside in cubicle-sized apartments. A short taxi ride away (if you can afford it), Dai Yun-po, a hard-of-hearing 80-year-old, and Kong Siu-gau, 63, live in even more shocking conditions. Retired construction workers fallen on hard times, they sleep in cages with mesh walls and ceilings too low for them to stand up. To do so, they must join a dozen other caged men in a communal area. When I arrived they were all standing – since there were no seats – watching a television programme about the latest Forbes list of billionaires. If Mr Dai and Mr Kong were dogs, someone from animal rights would have taken up their case years ago.

These are extreme examples of Hong Kong poverty to be sure. Yet a territory better known for its breathtaking harbour-front skyline and its money-making possibilities has plenty of misery to go round. In a city of 7m people with an average per capita income of nearly US$30,000, 1.23m live below the poverty line, earning less than half of a desperately low median wage. The city’s Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, is the worst in Asia (worse even than India and mainland China) before the limited effects of the city’s half-hearted income redistribution are counted.

The few hundred US dollars a month that many people live on do not get you very far in a cramped city-state with some of the world’s highest rents. Mr Kong pays US$160 a month for caged enclosure. Since there are no cooking facilities, he spends a good deal more on take-away food.

Widespread poverty is a largely untold story of Hong Kong. Were it not for subsidised public housing, where 40 per cent of Hong Kong residents live, conditions would be much worse. As it is, thousands of pensioners pick through garbage to make ends meet."
David Pilling, "Poverty blights the dream of Hong Kong", FT 17 mars

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