To give or not to give?

Hong Kong legislators are flocking to Sichuan these days on a tour organized by the government, to persuade them to approve the government’s proposed multibillion-dollar donation towards reconstruction after the earthquake.

The central government has pledged 70 billion yuan for reconstruction of the area. Nineteen provinces and cities have been ordered to provide the equivalent of 1 per cent of annual fiscal revenue for three years. Under this formula, Guangdong will have to give 9.5 billion yuan over the three years, and Hong Kong would pay HK$10.2 billion over three years. But theoretically, under the “one country, two systems” formula, the order does not apply to Hong Kong.

The HK government is trying hard to facilitate the tour, even those not-so-welcomed democrats are given one-time entry permits. However, as most of the lawmakers say, the government is not presenting a detailed plan on how those donation will be used.

It makes me wonder, even companies doing CSR these days know that philanthrophy is not the only and the best way to benefit a community, so the government should know better than this right? What is important is to create long-term value and to become involved in the local community by the companies or through charitable organizations. Also companies usually identify the areas in society where their help would be relevant. Preferably, these should be closely related interests within the companies’ areas of activity. By the same token, the Hong Kong government should have thought about all these before pushing ahead with the donation.

The government should shake off the worry of political embarrassment if our aid is less than other provinces. The amount should be reasonable. And they should think practically and see what is the best way to reach the people affected, so that those money will not go to other “unknown causes”. Maybe it is more efficient to do it through NGOs like Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and the United Nations? At least the lawmakers do not have to scratch their heads to see if the donation appears to breach Article 106 of the Basic Law.

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