In her Policy Address earlier this month, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng-Yuet ngor pitched a new slogan: “Striving Ahead Rekindling Hope”.
It appears Lam has noticed that there has been a strong sense of pessimism among locals in recent years, with quite a number of people losing hope about the future.
The Lam administration intends to alleviate the acute political polarization in society by devising new measures on several specific policy areas, but small tweaks alone are not enough to address the deep-rooted and fundamental social conflicts in the city.
Rather, I believe that in order to get to the bottom of the woes facing the society, the government should directly answer calls among the public for establishing a more open, equal and democratic political system.
Sadly, the truth is, our freedom, rule of law and social justice have come under serious threat in recent years.
One key initiative put forward by Lam in her Policy Address is undoubtedly the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” project, under which the government would create 1,700 hectares of new land in the waters east of the Lantau Island through massive reclamation so as to ease the current shortage in land and housing supply.
As the largest land reclamation project ever proposed by the government, there would inevitably be a lot of uncertainties and controversies arising from its cost, size and implications for the environment.
Worse still, as the administration appears to be determined in pressing ahead with the project before the Task Force on Land Supply has submitted its final report on its public consultation findings, it has given rise to widespread concern that the government is ignoring public opinion and attempting to override public consultation procedures on the issue.
If anything, such attitude of “everything has been decided already” suggests that the current administration has already forgotten the lesson of how a lot of big infrastructure projects in the past got caught up deeply in controversies as a result of the top-down approach to decision-making adopted by the previous governments.
Building man-made islands is a long-term project.
Nonetheless, the Policy Address hasn’t said much about how the government is going to guarantee Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the medium- to long term and enhance the city’s capacity to meet immediate and pressing economic challenges.
For example, as far as financial policies are concerned, contents of several paragraphs on financial initiatives in this year’s Policy Address are just continuation of what were proposed in the past.
As to economic development, all the Policy Address has pledged to do is to step up investments in research and development as well as provide subsidies for specific industries.
In order to truly facilitate the sustainable development of the economy, the government must, apart from making use of public funds, formulate solid strategies and set tangible goals.
To consolidate Hong Kong’s competitive edge, the government, other than expanding the city’s market share and facilitating a more diversified industrial structure, must enhance the competitiveness of our workforce.
Unfortunately, in the entire Policy Address, the chief executive only vowed in paragraph 169 that she would increase the places available in the Vocational Training Council.
Occupation switching and skill enhancement of the working population are crucial economic development issues, particularly at a time when the prevalence and wide applications of new technologies are having profound and far-reaching impact upon virtually every industry, including the financial and professional service sectors, which are Hong Kong’s traditional strengths.
Given this, I believe the government should devise additional measures to encourage the existing working population to pursue continuing education for occupation switching, and also ease the financial burden on them to help them achieve their objectives.
In the face of increasingly intense international competition, the urgent tasks lying before the government right now are to ponder over ways to raise Hong Kong’s overall competitiveness as well as respond to the potential challenges and crises posed by global trade conflicts.
In this, the focus should be on talent training and mapping out industrial policies and new initiatives that will help improve the quality of life among the citizens.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 19
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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