Tsang: no regrets, I did my best
A small booklet attached to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's last policy address lists 104 bullet points to flag what he called major achievements of the government under his second term as the city's chief executive, from 2007 until now. These achievements cover issues ranging from a caring society, investing in the future and quality of life to economic growth and democratic development.
Tsang certainly tried hard to present himself as a campaigner for the underdog, highlighting his relief measures for the poor and the introduction of minimum wages for low-income earners. He also highlighted his contribution in promoting clean energy, setting into motion universal suffrage and building large-scale infrastructure projects such as the cross-border railway and bridge.
At least in public, the chief executive wants to appear confident when talking about his record, saying he has no regrets.
'I have spent 40-something years in public service; whatever I do I have [no problem] to face myself and the people of Hong Kong,' he said.
'I have not done anything against my conscience or against Hong Kong people's interests, although the right to judge my performance lies in their hands. Sometimes when I feel I did well the citizens may not think so. But no matter what, I [will] rectify anything I have done wrong,' he said.
Dr Mo Pak-hung, associate professor in Baptist University's department of economics, said that while Tsang did make positive contributions in pushing forward the major infrastructure projects that provided jobs and economic growth opportunities, he might have also laid a ticking time bomb for future generations. 'Tsang did well to boost the economy by realising these large infrastructure projects, but the minimum wages established during his reign could have far-reaching negative implications for the economy. Under the influence of ballot-led politics, Hong Kong could be on the road to become today's debt-stricken Greece,' he said.
Critical of the HK$28 minimum hourly wage rule applauded by unionists, Mo said Tsang had chosen the worst way to address poverty. He said the minimum wage was likely to trigger a series of vicious cycles characterised by high inflation, low productivity, unemployment and high public spending.
On the political front, Tsang seemed to win more sympathy. Dr James Sung Lap-kung, a political commentator, said Tsang might have done his best to squeeze out of Beijing acceptable timetables for universal suffrage - 2017 for chief executive and 2020 for the legislature - but many regarded these as inadequate.
'I believe he might have done his best within all the limitations, especially given Beijing's heightened suspicion of the democrats in Hong Kong,' he said.
The only complaint Sung had was the delay in abolishing appointed seats on district councils, which he said showed Beijing's concerns over Hong Kong's political stability when reforms ran too fast.
On the city's quality of life, Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, wondered whether Tsang had exaggerated his contribution towards reducing roadside air pollution, as there was no clear benchmark to set against his 'achievements'.
'I have read all that Tsang has said on air quality in his seven policy addresses. From declaring war on air pollution to escalating air quality as one of the major tests facing the administration, Tsang has actually offered little vision or a clear timetable and objectives for cleaning up Hong Kong's air,' he said.
By comparison, Chu said, Tsang's predecessor Tung Chee-hwa had set clear goals and a road map for clean air in 1999 on which Tsang had failed to deliver.