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Leung Chun-ying

Leung's blueprint just first step in solving problems

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 1:08pm

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If the policy address was the occasion for Leung Chun-ying to articulate what he wants to achieve for the community, yesterday's speech appears to have served the purpose. While it was short of immediate measures to relieve the pain in some sectors, it was, nonetheless, focused, comprehensive and pragmatic. There was no shortage of ambitious long-term targets, overdue solutions and, above all, a strong political will to take on the daunting challenges ahead.

With much content leaked to the media earlier, the long-awaited maiden address carried few surprises. Some key policies, like a locals-only land policy, had been rolled out earlier. But the top leader still managed to spell out his ruling philosophy of a more interventionist government and table a detailed blueprint on how he intends to make good his campaign promises in coming years. Pressing issues such as poverty, pollution, an ageing population and economic development have been given due attention. Pledges such as a zero-births quota for mainland mothers and abolishing the maid levy are likely to win him some applause.

As expected, housing and land supply topped the agenda. That Leung devoted 43 of the 200 paragraphs of his speech to ways to ease the shortage, some of them highly controversial, speaks volumes about his determination to tackle the problem. The 10 measures to produce at least 128,700 flats in the short and medium term are welcome steps.

Leung may be pragmatic in first taking on burning issues like housing and the environment. But it was disappointing to see him shy away from taking a stronger stance on contentious issues such as universal suffrage, standard working hours and gay rights legislation. The growing tensions arising from cross-border integration were another notable omission.

Those who hoped there would be some immediate relief measures could be excused for feeling left out. Despite renewed efforts to tackle poverty and to develop new industries for better economic growth, Leung risks being accused of losing sight of the predicament of low-income earners. Expectations on next month's budget are likely to grow as a result.

A good blueprint is just the start. The real challenge is winning people's support. Leung rightly points out that some problems cannot be resolved overnight. The choice is whether we delay further or take the first step. Leung has to do a better job to convince the people that rallying behind him "with one heart and one vision" is the right way forward.