Fruits of future too green for the present

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 October, 1998, 12:00am

About 18 centuries ago, warlord Cao Cao's army was trapped in a desert land. To keep his thirsty soldiers marching, he lied to them that a grove of juicy plum trees was just ahead in the distance. Filled with hope, the troops managed to keep their heads up until they were finally replenished.

Tung Chee-hwa has resorted to the same tactics: quenching the public's thirst by offering elusive hopes in the distant future. Long-term investments in the information technology industry have been highlighted as his primary medicine to ease economic pains.

While this may be a significant step in the right direction, residents may not be able to reap the fruits in the next few decades. Malaysia, for instance, is one of the latest to join the hi-tech game in the region.

How successful its 2020 Vision has been is, to say the least, questionable.

Important as they are, such strategic measures on the drawing board serve little more purpose than Cao's imaginary plum trees.

Despite the official move to contain public expectations about Mr Tung's second Policy Address, a few burning issues have featured prominently on the media agenda.

Union leaders are eager to set a minimum wage to protect the most vulnerable in our 3.2 million-strong workforce. Some 215,000 welfare dependants are worried that help for them would be slashed, as part of the Government's expected austerity drive. Even the 190,000 civil servants have been jittery about the prospect of becoming the next to suffer salary cuts.

Home owners were keen to know whether the Government would abandon its ill-timed policy to dump 85,000 flats a year on the market. According to the latest estimates, more than 100,000 flat owners have already seen their life investments transformed into liabilities.

However, Mr Tung failed to offer any straight answers to the questions people are asking.

Instead, he chose to dwell on mundane detail, such as the fact that 5,000 senior citizens were taking part in voluntary service.

He even ended his lengthy speech by saying how he had been inspired by the motherland's collective efforts in fighting the rage of the Long River.

The Chief Executive spent about 135 minutes talking in the chamber yesterday. For most of the time, he seemed to be talking to himself.