Chief executive falls short on vision
Lau Nai-keung says an attitude of 'making do' won't serve Hong Kong
It seems to me that our chief executive has a hard time understanding the concept of a vision. I think of it as the guiding principle for a society's collective goals and actions. I had high hopes when I heard that Leung Chun-ying would focus more on vision than individual pieces of policy, but the title of his address, "Seek Change, Maintain Stability, Serve the People with Pragmatism", was a blow to my enthusiasm.
Pragmatism is a curious choice of word. It may have a more positive connotation in a Chinese context, but here it suggests conservatism, and our people are not necessarily conservative, especially if they are living below the yet-to-be-established poverty line. The first two phrases - change and stability - seem to cancel each other out, and we are stuck with nothing but pragmatism.
This is what Leung has to say about vision: "Hong Kong people are hardworking, tenacious and earnest. We have an enterprising, dedicated and law-abiding spirit. Our civil service is outstanding, efficient and clean. We have an independent judicial system, and excellent law and order. As well as sophisticated transport systems and telecommunica- tions networks, we are also endowed with close and extensive connections with the mainland and abroad. These are the distinct advantages of Hong Kong."
His vision is also amusingly conditional. "As long as we keep focused on development, avoid feuds and strive for results, Hong Kong will be able to sustain its economic growth. As long as we have a proactive government and well-planned industrial policies, people from different backgrounds will have the opportunities to realise their potential, and young people will be able to put their learning to good use. "
Of course, but that does not resolve our concerns.
Dysfunctional politics is no excuse for failure. What we want to know is how Leung is going to stop the "feuds", especially now that they are so plentiful.
The kind of vision I had in mind is more along the lines of Hong Kong becoming "a better living and working environment for the people" and to make it a "more liveable city with lush countryside, fresh air and a clean environment". It is vague, but it's still a vision.
Pragmatism is not always a bad word, but it sounds alarmingly like "make do with what we have got".
But, to be fair, Leung did give us something concrete on housing. Knowing that his legitimacy hinges on his ability to solve our housing problems, or being seen to be solving them, he sensibly devoted a substantial part of his address to the issue.
Previous policies such as the special stamp duty and allowing more eligible applicants to buy Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats without paying the land premium have not been able to create a real impact on the housing market as supply shortages persist. There's only so much Leung can do in six months, but his five-year plan is really a game changer.
Leung promises 75,000 new public rental housing flats over the next five years and about 17,000 HOS flats over the four years starting from 2016-17. With the expected supply of 67,000 private flats in the next three to four years, the total number of new flats will be at least 142,000 in the next five years. Compared with the total of 124,000 in the past five years, the increase is an impressive 15 per cent. And there will be even more new flats when HOS construction gets into full swing.
Leung also noted that more than half of the private properties here have a saleable area of less than 50 square metres, and asked if we have the courage to increase this figure. This, my friend, is a vision and I look forward to seeing how the housing market is going to stomach it.
Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development