Donald Tsang

Can this government deliver a perfect 10 for the people?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am


Related topics

Early this week, I listened in shock as our new chief secretary, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, called for '10 projects for the people' to sit at the heart of the new administration's agenda - a clear contrast to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's 10 major infrastructure projects, that many Hongkongers believed had more to do with pleasing our business aristocracy than with equipping our community to rally out of the global economic crisis.

Why in shock? Because in March 2010, I contributed an article to Ming Pao calling for ... '10 projects for the people'. In that article, I complained about the Tsang administration being out of touch with the stress and tension among ordinary Hong Kong people - at that point focused on protests against funding for the rail project linking Hong Kong to the mainland's high-speed system.

Of course, Tsang and his team ignored my recommendation. It seems his administration never really got its head around why our community was so anxious and alienated. So it is more than gratifying to see Lam take up the idea with such alacrity.

There seems to me great sense in such an approach. My own 10 projects mainly fall into five policy areas - education, health care, the environment, property and old age. Hopefully, they might spur debate and give the new administration some food for thought. Here goes:

Massively strengthen language tuition in schools, and offer serious funding incentives for those in work to reach fluency in our three key languages. That would include funding a new institution to train local teachers to teach English as a foreign language.

Significant funds set aside for training, so local companies big and small can equip our workforce with the skills they need to drive our competitive future.

A massive 'gap year' programme for school- and university-leavers to spend a year working on carefully vetted projects outside Hong Kong. There can be no better way of ensuring our graduates enter our workforce with maturity and sophisticated international awareness.

Invest the necessary billions to build a large network of community medical clinics across Hong Kong - including more billions to train more family doctors and nurses. This would free our hospital accident and emergency departments to deal with accidents and emergencies, rather than medicating flus and dealing with stomach upsets. It would enable our doctors - both Western-trained and traditional Chinese - to work with nurses, opticians, podiatrists, physiotherapists and other health-care specialists as teams that provide primary care at the heart of our communities.

Fund a comprehensive (and compulsory) basic health-care insurance scheme that exempts no one, and embraces chronic and catastrophic illnesses like diabetes or cancer. And I am not talking about the HK$50billion that John Tsang Chun-wah set aside in 2008. This scheme should be established with an initial investment pool of, say, HK$200billion.

Encourage energy efficiency with a substantial electricity tax that kicks in above a specific consumption level and becomes more punitive the more electricity you consume.

Invest afresh in a programme of providing affordable home ownership.

Commit to a long-term programme to co-fund incorporated owners' associations and owners of small, old and dilapidated buildings to replace and restore Hong Kong's ageing stock of buildings. With some 20,000 buildings approaching fragile old age, the challenge of restoring or replacing them will be huge. This programme should embody 'best in class' building codes to ensure Hong Kong has 'green homes' in large numbers.

A large-scale programme of sheltered housing for our elderly. The Elderly Commission seems to already be focused on such issues, so maybe we should listen to them.

That leaves one project for the arts. Perhaps we should be encouraging the development of the arts as a business.

So there you are, C.Y. Those are my 10 projects drawn up two years ago for your predecessor. He ignored it. What would your list be?

David Dodwell heads the consultancy Strategic Access