Musings about money


Taken from letters to the editors of three media outlets, here are some thoughts on the nature of "free" services and the use of monetary awards.

· From The Beijing News 2006.12.14 (Qiao Li):

I saw information in the media concerning "The First China Beijing International Cultural and Creative Industry Expo"; "cultural creativity" and "first expo" naturally caught my intense interest as an amateur cultural scholar. Only the weatherman wasn't very agreeable, and on that evening there was heavy fog. The following morning the fog had lessened somewhat; fortunately there weren't many cars on the roads, and upon arriving at the exhibition center, I found that you could count the number of people lined up to buy tickets on one hand.

As I got out of the vehicle, three or four men and women holding stacks of paper in their hands surged around me: "Tickets? 10 yuan apiece." I was quite surprised - wasn't it clearly written in the newspapers that this was "open to the public for free"? How could there still be scalpers? When I walked up to the window and extended my hand for the ticket, I found out why.

"ID." I was stunned. The papers never said anything about needing an ID to pick up a ticket. So I tried to explain: "Sorry, I was in a hurry and forgot to bring it." "With no ID we can't give you a ticket," said the 20-something guy. Right next to me, another middle-aged individual as confused as I was got refused in the same way. I was bewildered. Since it was open for free, why was an ID required to get a ticket? Is it that you're not "the public" if you don't have an ID?

Now I understand why at a "free" exhibition there were so many scalpers. What I don't understand is where the tickets the scalpers had in their hands came from.

· From Oriental Outlook, 2006.11.09 (Hai Hong / Shanghai):

During the October First holiday, my old classmate brought his daughter, who was about to enter middle school, to Shanghai. When the subject of the kid's studies came up, she was visibly anxious. I couldn't really understand, since the kid's residency was right in the district for the Middle School No. 1, a provincial key middle school - entering a school would be as simple as going to No. 1 Middle, right? And middle school belongs to the nine years of compulsory education, so there is no need to pay any additional money. However, my old classmate said that this is no longer the case; everything's changed in recent years.

Junior middle school is compulsory education. The rules are very strict: schools may not collect tuition through various line-items, so there is no profit in running classes. So the few local key schools successively dropped their junior middle school departments and only operated senior middle school. But what was dropped were only the public junior middle departments; the school continued as usual to recruit junior middle classes and the instructors were still the school's normal teachers; the junior middle department had become privatized, so students had to pay fees. And since it was private, tuition naturally was not insignificant. Apart from these private middle schools, there were few other public junior middle schools in the area that were any good. So, though tuition was not low, these private junior classes were still jammed with people, and there were even more classes now than when the school had been public.

· From Mirror 2006.12.12 (Xu Chaoming):

According to a Shanghai Morning Post report, a family planning award and assistance regulation put in place in Shanghai will provide to parents of only children a reward of 2.5 yuan every month until that child reaches 16 years of age.

When I first saw this reward regulation, I thought I read it wrong, but when I looked at it carefully, I was taken aback. I couldn't help but wonder, what kind of reward is 2.5 yuan a month? 2.5 yuan can't even buy a pen for your only child, much less a bag of the cheapest milk powder on the market. For the parents of only children, there isn't much enticing about 2.5 yuan a month.

Working it out, a Shanghai couple can receive at total reward of one or two thousand yuan for having only one kid. Who's going to call off having a second kid for that amount? The report did not mention how this reward would be distributed; if you need to go to an office to pick it up in person, it's not even enough for round-trip transportation.

If an incentive policy has little to no effect on the actions of the awardee, then there is no reason to implement it; parents of only children aren't kids in kindergarten who when you give them a sticker are delighted to no end.

To the government, this reward may be somewhat meaningful - at the very least it demonstrates their attitude: they place importance on family planning policy and its associated work. They might say, Look! We're not just all talk - here are economic incentives!

I can't be certain whether other places are like Shanghai; if they are, then I hope that standards can be raised. Otherwise, just get rid of the reward already.

There are currently 1 Comments for Musings about money.

Comments on Musings about money

"希望赶紧提高一下标准" should not be translated as "I hope that things can be standardized.", but should be translated as something like "....I hope the standard can be raised ..."

[[EDITOR'S NOTE (JDM): Fixed. Thanks.]]

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