What HK bureaucrats can learn from Kaohsiung mayor

January 18, 2019 18:20
Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu has won praise for his out-of-the-box thinking on ways to boost his city's economy. Photo: Reuters

Flowing through the city of Kaohsiung in southwestern Taiwan is a body of water known as the Love River among the locals.

At one time, the river was largely shunned by the people because it used to be heavily polluted and was smelly.

But thanks to intense cleanup efforts of the municipal administration spanning about three decades, the situation has changed, with the river getting a major facelift.

Today the Love River is a major tourist attraction, and a popular hangout for young lovebirds.

Against this backdrop, Han Kuo-yu, the newly elected Kaohsiung mayor from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), seems to believe the river still has a lot more unexplored potential.

Recently, Han outlined a proposal to develop a so-called “industrial chain of love” along the river, envisaging the plan as one that could help him deliver on his election promises to boost the city’s economy and enable the locals “to make big bucks”.

Han's plan might sound a bit out there at first glance, but if we dissect the idea, we can determine that it is a positive, out-of-the-box initiative to repackage Kaohsiung’s tourism, cultural and public entertainment industries in order to draw more visitors and create new business opportunities.

While it remains to be seen whether Han’s ingenious idea of rebranding the Love River is really going to work, at least he has demonstrated to the people of Kaohsiung that there is now a new sheriff in town, and that he is able to think outside the box when it comes to the issue of improving people's lives.

Now, if we turn our attention to Hong Kong, we find that the government officials here just don’t have the same kind of ingenuity or creativity in packaging ideas as Han does when it comes to boosting the economy and enhancing people’s livelihoods.

Hong Kong's tourism, cultural and showbiz industries, for instance, have been spinning their wheels and even resting on their laurels in recent years, rather than make any new breakthroughs.

After taking office in July 2017, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowed to improve the economy and people’s livelihoods, but after all these months she is yet to come up with any truly innovative or impressive idea.

Housing policies, which are the top priority of the administration, are witnessing some unorthodox adjustments but the moves are unable to any real relief or comfort to citizens.

Authorities should perhaps take some lessons from the Kaohsiung mayor Han and recognize this fact: political figures and decision-makers shouldn’t always follow the beaten track in formulating public policies; they should have the courage and capacity to think outside the box.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 11

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal