Why Lam's policy address was a damp squib

October 18, 2019 13:07
Carrie Lam's latest policy address has been a letdown in the eyes of many Hong Kong people amid the ongoing unrest in the city. Photo: HKEJ

For the very first time in Hong Kong's history, the city's top leader was unable to deliver an annual Policy Address in person at the legislature. Confronted with intense heckling and noisy protests by pan-democratic lawmakers, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was on Wednesday forced to give her policy speech through video. 

As expected, Lam spent most of her Policy Address on talking about land supply and housing issues.

While she spoke at length, one can say that all she did, in large part, was no more than reporting on her progress on those matters and intention to tighten the grip on action plans rather than truly come up with new and ground-breaking ideas.

Perhaps the only new measure on housing that can deliver an instant impact is Lam’s decision to relax mortgage rules on first-time homebuyers.

As for measures on land supply announced in the Policy Address, such as the proposed invocation of the Lands Resumption Ordinance and pressing ahead with the Lantau Tomorrow Vision (LTV) project, the initiatives will take years, if not decades, to yield tangible results.

The proposed invocation of the Lands Resumption Ordinance is re-prioritized over the LTV project, which we believe could fail to deliver tangible results as early as anticipated.

However, when it comes to the economic recession and the unemployment crisis that could happen at any time, Lam hasn’t put forward any detailed policy initiative to prepare the city for the potential tsunami, let alone warn us about the worst-case scenarios.

Worse still, the chief executive almost didn’t say a word on the current crisis in the city in the wake of the extradition bill fiasco, providing no assurance as to whether she will reflect comprehensively on her mistakes, propose remedial solutions and achieve reconciliation in our society.

All she said is that members of the public should set aside their differences and allow the society to move on quickly.

Following the policy speech, one can say that the chief executive is attempting to resolve political issues through livelihood measures.

The problem is, even before the anti-extradition bill saga, Hong Kong was already riddled with a lot of deep-seated social and other woes.

What the civil unrest of the past four months has done was to lay bare a lot more serious concerns.

Unfortunately, the Policy Address failed to provide any answers, which begs the question: is the government trying to avoid difficult issues, or is it at its wits’ end?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 17

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal