Finally, everyone on the Hope had a place they could call home. Naturally, with only one bedroom and barely enough space for a living room, these residential tenements were not as luxurious as the ones in the Academy, Barracks, or Workshop. Nevertheless, they still came equipped with a private kitchen and bathroom, and for families with more than 2 children, there might even be an extra bedroom. Spirits were high and contentment reigned.
However, not everyone was as satisfied.
These were the unemployed two million people who were still given housing on the basis of militia conscription. They were mostly single and had the smallest tenement, but their special treatment by the Hope had invariably landed them in awkward situations.
With the introduction of currency, people's ID cards could access e-wallets that contained H-Coins. One H-coin could purchase 1 kilogram of rice or 0.7 kilogram of wheat. For citizens in the militia reserve, monthly allowance was at a mere 120 H-coins, nudging over what would be the equivalency for minimum wage. If a person only survived on simple carbohydrates, like rice and wheat, his monthly expenditure would be around seventy H-coins. However, that was definitely not a life worth living…
Before the economic reformation and flourishing of the market, it wasn't obvious that people's choices would be restricted. Everyone survived on rice and bread. But now, items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, toiletries, seasonings, and vegetables began to appear as necessities…
With a monthly allowance of 120 H-coins, these basic accoutrements could be covered, but there was definitely no room for luxury.
Furthermore, among the militia reserve, there was a small portion that had families to care for. It was already a stretch for a single man to survive on a monthly allowance of 120 H-coins, much less a family of three.
Yao Yuan was adamant that there would be no special treatment, but to tide these families over, he had introduced many welfare programs. These included programs aimed specifically at women and children.
On the other hand, citizens that held regular posts, like public servants, had a monthly allowance of 250 to 300 H-coins. That was a considerable amount of money because it meant they could treat themselves to about two splurges of luxury each month.
For occupations that were more specialized, like technicians or teachers, their allowance was in the range of 350 to 400 H-coins. Police and engineers had 500 H-coins, while scientists had the highest allowance amongst all. Interns at the Academy had 500 H-coins, lab assistants 650 H-coins, regular scientists 700 H-coins, while committee leaders like Alan and Silewei had 1200 H-coins.
The military had a smaller allowance than the public gave them credit for. Normal soldiers had 200, captains 250, lieutenants 300, and even the Major only took 500. However, these were compensated with government benefits. The military's everyday needs were already subsidized, which meant that their allowance was mostly for luxury purchases.
This was the policy decided after months of discussion between Yao Yuan and the experts. Even though Guang Zhen felt the policy would lead to a huge wage gap, the experts assured him that the gap would encourage competition which would subsequently lead to societal improvement. Also, even though on paper the gap between the rich and the poor was almost ten times in difference, in reality, after considering benefits and welfare, the difference would be pretty much smoothened out.
Regarding this policy, Yao Yuan had his own understanding… He believed that capitalism had its flaws, but it bred competition and improvement. For the best chance of survival in space, those are the qualities that he felt the Hope needed. Therefore, Yao Yuan agreed with the experts and approved such a reformation.
With demands came creative pursuit…
With that, Yao Yuan sat waiting, waiting for people to step up…
"Hey, brothers, the internet café is finally open. 0.5 H-coins for one hour of access. I've taken a look-see. They have the new Star Wars 3 game! Let's go blow some virtual aliens' heads!" With a half-smoked cigarette dangling on his lips, Xiao Niao suggested to Qiu Qiu and Dan Dan.
"Blow your head! There's still eleven days to the end of the month and salary day. I don't know about you two, but I only have enough money left for food," Dan Dan replied sulkily.
Qiu Qiu hesitated before announcing, "Damn it! Let's just go, my treat! It's not like we haven't starved ourselves for virtual crap before. I've not touched a computer for almost half a year already and all this computer talk is making my hands itch!"
Instead of egging him on, Xiao Niao sighed and patted Qiu Qiu on his shoulder. Sitting down, he groaned, "Never mind, forget it. It was my fault for bringing this up. Before this it was also under my urging that we recklessly bought cigarettes and beers… What to do, brothers? Who knew the three of us would be living from salary to salary?"
Reflecting his two friends' gloomy expressions, Dan Dan sighed. "Actually, there's one thing that has been bothering me. All ninety something of us are victims of the fever, so why has the government chosen only about ten of them to join the military and had the rest of us sent back to our civilian lives? How I wish we were one of those selected few, their everyday meals are taken care of by the military and on top of that have 200 extra H-coins to spend. Tell me, how is that fair?"
"Xiao Niao, of the three of us, you are the brightest. Can you tell us why we weren't selected even though we were specially recruited?" asked Qiu Qiu.
Xiao Niao steepled his hands in thought. "How am I supposed to know? Maybe those selected have something special about them, but what, I have no clue…"
His friends followed with a succession of sighs. Dan Dan lamented, "Money, oh, money, the source of all evil. Damn it, if God would give me a few thousand H-coins now, I swear I would have lobster, steak, and wine while I hang out at the café all day. If I hear even a squeak of saving for the future, I'll drown that person in my sea of H-coins!"
While his two friends continued lamenting their fate, Xiao Niao could hear two cleaners discussing the Hope's upcoming supply landing. The momentous landing was scheduled to occur in about ten days They were discussing how to approach the supply gathering as if they were the experts.
Right then, Xiao Niao could feel his surroundings going quiet; even the sounds of his friends felt like they were coming from far away. Little by little, clues aligned in his mind and a conclusion was slowly reached…
"The currency release, wage gap… I know it now! Why the militia training ended a few days ago, the government is waiting for us to get into action!"
Xiao Niao grew more excited as he went on, but he made sure to keep his voice low, to ensure his thoughts stayed within only his two friends' hearing range.
Both Qiu Qiu and Dan Dan looked at their friend confusedly. Qiu Qiu interjected, "Bro, have you gone insane thinking about money? Earth to Xiao Niao, Earth to Xiao Niao, it's time to wake up."
Xiao Niao replied, with a mysterious smirk, "You're the one that's insane! I say, brothers, didn't you two say you wish for a bunch of H-coins? I might have a plan that can make that happen."
"What plan?" his friends replied in unison. "Have you thought of any jobs that are perfect for the three of us?"
"Not job," Xiao Niao said with a wicked smile. "but an entrepreneurship!"
The next day, the trio using their future six-month's worth of salary as deposit, took out a loan from the government. With that loan, they bought several reams of paper, rented a few printers, and hired a handful of reporters and editors…
One week later, the very first issue of Hope Weekly came fresh out of the press. Sold at the price of 0.2 H-coins per copy, it was released every Monday, detailing the general location of the Hope, the vacancies available, harvest reports from the biomes, jokes, civil affairs, and the like…
In just under one week, the Hope Weekly held an impressive two million copies sold number. Another week after that, the government offered workers, printers, and papers to help institutionalize the Hope Weekly as the Hope's first news agency. As its main shareholders, Xiao Niao, Qiu Qiu, and Dan Dan had indeed struck gold.
Many on the Hope were inspired by the trio's success story. The ship was wrapped in an atmosphere of conscientious fervor as it sailed towards the meteorite belt…
Man's first ore mining operation in space was going to initiate soon!