2016 Policy Address: too macro while too micro

January 15, 2016 15:34
Perhaps the only one who was satisfied with the policy address was CY Leung himself. Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung, shown at left throwing a shoe brush at CY Leung, was obviously not impressed. Photo: HKEJ

As the old saying goes, it is always the little things in life that count, and it appears Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is a firm believer in this proverb.

In his latest Policy Address, our chief executive has proposed a lot of “little things”, such as introducing a new smart card for the elderly that can extend the length of the green light at a zebra crossing so that they can have enough time to cross the road.

Our chief executive’s attention to detail is absolutely staggering.

However, isn’t the Policy Address supposed to be focused on larger things, such as laying down the blueprint for the overall social, political and economic development of Hong Kong over the next 12 months?

Why would our chief executive give priority to such trivial things over much more pressing issues, like a universal retirement scheme and the long overdue abolition of the offsetting of long-service and severance payments against Mandatory Provident Fund contributions?

To give Leung his due, he does deserve some credit for showing tender loving care for our elderly.

The hard truth is, however, that the overwhelming majority of our senior citizens would be far more concerned about how the government is going to secure their livelihoods after retirement than extending the length of the green light signal or installing non-slip tiles in public toilets.

In other words, Leung simply failed to get his priorities right in his latest Policy Address.

No wonder it was a huge letdown for the public and received the lowest approval rating ever for the key speech.

Despite the fact that the 2016 Policy Address is the lengthiest one ever, it hardly came up with any concrete solutions to some of the pressing issues our society is facing.

To make things worse, it appears Leung has deliberately skirted around some of the contentious yet pressing issues in his speech, in an apparent attempt to avoid stirring up any controversy.

Sadly, burying his head in the sand doesn’t mean the problems will go away.

As Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party, put it, she was disappointed by the Policy Address because it didn’t address the fundamental issues that Hong Kong is encountering, such as the crisis of confidence among the public over “one country, two systems”, escalating cross-border conflicts and partisan gridlock in the legislature.

Failure to address these issues will only exacerbate the social tensions in our city, but obviously that doesn’t bother Leung at all.

Based on his light-handed approach in this Policy Address, it might be a logical inference that Leung would rather play it safe over the next 12 months by avoiding any controversial policy initiatives so that he can focus on his re-election campaign.

While ignoring many of the imperative issues engulfing our city, Leung, however, spent a lot of paragraphs in his Policy Address pitching the “One Belt, One Road” strategy.

In fact he mentioned the term “One Belt, One Road” more than 40 times throughout his two-hour long speech, whereas he didn’t mention a word about the recent mysterious disappearance of the book publisher Lee Bo, let alone vow to uphold “one country, two systems” and defend the safety of Hongkongers on our own soil, something that is truly at the center of public attention right now.

The “One Belt, One Road” strategy proposed by President Xi Jinping may have become a global sensation on the diplomatic level, but as far as average Hongkongers are concerned, few if any would think it has anything to do with their lives at all.

Leung’s obsession with the “One Belt, One Road” is like a highbrow piece of music that can never resonate with the majority of the general public.

It is quite ironic that he said at the news conference after the announcement of his Policy Address that the 7.2 million people in Hong Kong would blame him for not seizing the opportunities presented by “One Belt, One Road”, because the truth is, the overwhelming majority of those 7.2 million people he was referring to just couldn’t care less about “One Belt, One Road”.

With about 17 months remaining in office, there is still an awful lot of things that Leung can do to stop Hong Kong from going downhill.

Unfortunately, what he chose to do in his Policy Address this year was to focus on minor things rather than the big picture.

Leung may be a bit too optimistic if he believes he can ride out the year 2016 successfully and get his second term next year by such a mediocre policy blueprint.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 14.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal