Ex-chief secretary Henry Tang slams land supply panel

March 08, 2019 13:37
Former SAR senior official Henry Tang said he did not consider the “big debate” to be a good way of obtaining recommendations on how to increase land supply for housing. Photo: HKEJ

Former chief secretary and financial secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said he does not agree with the approach used by a government-appointed expert panel to consult the public over options to increase land supply and he therefore disapproves of its conclusions, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The Task Force on Land Supply, which was appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year to come up with suggestions on how to boost land supply in order to address Hong Kong’s housing woes, submitted a final report to the government at the end of 2018 after conducting a five-month public engagement exercise between April 26 and Sept. 26.

A total of eight options, including three short- to medium-term ones and five medium- to long-term solutions, were suggested in the report.

The report was, as the 30-member expert panel’s chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said, formed on the basis of extensive public participation and integrated with land supply strategies.

Asked by media on Thursday what he thinks of Lam’s housing policies, Tang criticized the expert panel for not taking any position on the issue.

Tang was attending the “Two Sessions” in Beijing as he is a member of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body.

He said he did not consider the “big debate” to be a good way to obtain recommendations on how to increase land supply for housing, noting that it was nothing but a way to shirk responsibility.

Citing his experience as a former official of the SAR government, Tand said the administration in the past had a preconceived position on an issue before seeking public opinions, and therefore a public consultation was just conducted to listen to the voices of more people in society.

Tang compared Wong’s approach in the public consultation process to that seen in a cha chaan teng, the Hong Kong-style diner, where a waiter takes an order from a customer and serves food and drinks such as milk tea, with the amount of sugar and cream to be put in totally based on the customer’s preference.

The expert panel’s report is like an order sheet seen in a cha chaan teng, Tang said, adding that the public consultations he had led when he was in government did not turn out that way.

The former senior official also noted that he is not in favor of clawing back part of the land from the Fanling Golf Course and is very disappointed that the expert panel did not recommend the use of the periphery of country parks to increase land supply.

Asked whether the chief executive should be held responsible for the expert panel’s report since the “big debate” was part of her platform, Tang said he still has high regard for Lam.

The report was only a small thing as far as Lam's governance is concerned, he added.

Tang did not directly respond to asked twice whether Lam will have his support if she seeks a second term.

On whether constitutional reform should be reactivated, he said the administration should focus on how to improve people’s livelihood and put aside the issue of constitutional reform.

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