CY Leung must use policy address to deliver on his promises

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 7:15am

Expectations before Wednesday's policy speech have surged to such a high level that they risk becoming another crisis if Leung Chun-ying fails to comfort an increasingly demanding public. With Hong Kong gradually moving away from the shadow of a spate of political controversies that seemingly ground the new administration to a halt in the past six months, the growing pressure for the new chief executive to deliver is understandable. Now that the momentum to oust the embattled leader has eased, he has to map out long-term strategies and make good his campaign promise of improving governance and people's livelihoods. This is how he can boost his flagging popularity and rekindle confidence in his leadership. It is an opportunity he cannot afford to miss.

Good leaders rule with a clear vision and sound strategies. A maiden policy address is as much about showing competence as it is about inspiring hopes in a better future. Leung therefore has to produce a comprehensive framework on issues like housing, poverty, education, health, environment, an ageing population and universal suffrage.

Admittedly, many deep-seated problems in society cannot be resolved overnight. It would be naive to believe the top leader can wave a magic wand to conjure up solutions. That said, Leung was not short of innovative ideas during his election campaign last year. They were, after all, part of the reason why the community found him a better candidate. The address is the occasion to breathe life into the proposals.

Clear ideas and well-thought out strategies for long-term challenges are only part of the job. The speech would not be a success without addressing the immediate needs of society. Last week a story in this paper highlighted the plight of middle and low-income earners. The median wage rose by just 10 per cent between 2001 and 2011, despite soaring inflation and property prices. Leung probably does not want to repeat the reckless mistake of trying to appease the public with a HK$6,000 cash handout. Nonetheless, targeted measures are necessary for the needy. A government sitting on HK$600 billion in reserves that does not help those struggling to make ends meet could hardly claim to be people-based. The case for increased public spending to help the poor is justified.

A survey shows two-thirds of the public had "some" or "very high" expectations of the address. Leung can turn a new leaf in leadership by delivering a blueprint the people want.