Can I make a confession? I aspire to be a rentier. After all, isn’t that what the government’s encouraging us all to do?
Think about it: the government’s warning of the burden of setting aside HK$50 billion to help “the elderly and needy”, whereas Hong Kong’s Superman can just click his fingers and banks will fall over each other to loan him the HK$55 billion he wants to make him even wealthier by restructuring his conglomerates. And how did he get so fabulously rich? By being a rentier, of course, making clever use of capital instruments and property transactions.
Despite the recent talk of measures to help young people become entrepreneurs, it’s obvious that the best way to survive in Hong Kong is to become unproductive members of society, deriving income, not from hard work, but from playing the stock market and buying property. After all, whether these young entrepreneurs will succeed or fail will depend on the extent to which they can shoulder high rent.
That’s how a former clerical worker I know made her decision on being forced to take early retirement. With limited opportunities for older workers and not wishing to claim CSSA, start a loss-making business or sell cardboard to make ends meet, she gathered the little savings she had and took a gamble in the stock market. She’s lost it all a couple of times, but overall she’s managed to make enough to cover her daily expenses.
Alas, for those without the stomach for that kind of risk or who may not be so fortunate, the search for decent work continues. What is ‘decent work’? Well, how ’bout cold-calling; cold-callers have the protection of the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development no less. Or various jobs to help the rich get richer… like organising a mega loan for two huge conglomerates; which, by the way, pays nicely too.
But truly, nothing beats being a rentier. When there is little meaningful work that gives us a sense of purpose and is spiritually rewarding, all we can do is try to join the rentier class in order to do things that are meaningful to us but which doesn’t pay, like growing vegetables or doing voluntary work. Of course, there is no shortage of those who simply want to be rentiers so they can play mahjong all day. Hence the overseas property advertisements on every other page of the newspaper and the stock market surges. No, Hong Kongers are not planning to emigrate en masse (though many are contemplating it given the political climate); they just want to own an overseas property because of the assumption that the only way to go for London property, for instance, is up. And despite dire economic fundamentals around the world, the local stock market is doing well because, well, what do you do when you can make more subscribing to IPOs and quickly selling for a profit, than working nine to nine doing your boss’s bidding?