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  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 6:26pm
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

Wise words from Fred Ma, a good listener

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 2:46am

Fred Ma Si-hang knows first hand that political heat and smoke can obscure the big picture. He was the government official blamed for the penny stocks debacle that wiped more than HK$10 billion off the value of the stock exchange in a day in 2002. That made him unpopular, to say the least. Six years later, when he resigned as commerce secretary on health grounds, he was one of the city's most popular politicians. He is, therefore, well qualified to reflect on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's trial by low popularity ratings, conflicted governance and lack of progress on electoral reform. He recalls that it took him years to rebuild relationships with some pan-democrat lawmakers and he sees signs of hope for Leung in that "he is starting to . . . liaise more frequently with different political parties".

He sees the current political row stemming from a schoolteacher's abuse of police as symptomatic of Hongkongers' tendency to focus on relatively trivial, one-off disputes at the expense of important long-term issues such as the city's competitiveness. He recalled that in the 1990s Hong Kong completed more than HK$100 billion worth of airport and airport-related construction projects in about six years. Asking what we have done in the last six years, he says it is time for the community to look beyond micro issues and focus on how the city can move forward, before it is overtaken by fast-growing economies such as Singapore and Shanghai.

Ma is the second respected establishment figure in recent days to have expressed a positive view about the participation of a pan-democrat candidate in the 2017 election of a chief executive by universal suffrage. Earlier, Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said Beijing would be unlikely to veto a mildly pan-democratic candidate. Ma went further and said effective political reform could act like a medicine to cure the present negative political climate.

If so, reaching consensus on the means of nominating candidates is arguably the single most important step that needs taking towards restoring effective governance. Leung and central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming have broken the ice by sitting down to lunch and dinner with pan-democrats. These social events have opened the way for dialogue on how to find a democratic process that all parties can accept. The participants could do worse than cultivate a quality attributed to Ma by pan-democrat leaders when he resigned: he was a good listener.

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jam2morrow
The challenge is that Hong Kong is a democracy and neither Singapore nor Shanghai are. This is especially a challenge when democracy in Hong Kong and especially in Legco is dysfunctional and focuses on petty issues rather than the big picture of what keeps our "barren rock" competitive. Whatever anyone may comment about Fred Ma, his comment that the Hong Kong Government has failed to maintain its infrastructure advantage since 2001 is self-evident to anyone who has visited Singapore in the past 5 years and seen how that city has re-invented itself. We failed even to attract the Electric Formula 1 Championships to Hong Kong....we haven't built an iconic piece of waterfront in decades....these are the sort of things that define a city in international eyes, as Singapore has demonstrated. We are now very ""1990s". Oh, and we have democracy too, if our politicians can learn to exercise it with respect and proper responsibility on all sides.
Dai Muff
"The challenge is that Hong Kong is a democracy" It must be fun to live on your planet.
JC
Jam ... I seriously doubt you can call a chief executive that is appointed by the central government in Beijing a democracy. Yes, you do have the trappings of a democracy, such as the right to protest and so forth, but at least in Singapore, you get to vote the government of your choice. It's a government that tries its best to listen to the people without being populistic. And I believe the majority of Singaporeans do not subscribe to petty politiking by their leaders. The Western liberals can say what they like, but the proof is in the pudding. Personally, as an outside observer, I sincerely feel that CY Leung is serious about improving the acute housing problem in HK for example, and I truly hope for the people of HK that this will improve over time. It's not going to be easy given the excesses of the previous administration, but at least he has started the ball rolling. Best of luck.
daily
CY probably promised him something under the table to get him to come out to lie so much...........
daniel18
Though his contribution may not be huge, his intention seems positive. Particularly when he intends to interact with the pan-democrat, they just do nothing but oppose, oppose and oppose to government policies without giving contructive suggestion. Is it a must that government have to obey to their view? Are they bullying the government most of the times when government want to introduce policies that is conducive to the development of HK? Are they opposing to government out of good intention? or they just wanna secure their votes? They are wasting our tax payer money but they themselves broke the law themselves. Come on! Don't pretend as a saint!
aplucky1
who wrote this dribble?
and can the dribblie please explain what made fat freddy "the most popular politician"
XYZ
Yesterday an SCMP article referred to Fred Ma as a "community leader". Today's editorial refer to him as "one of the city's most popular politicians" when he left government in 2008. There is zero evidence that Fred Ma is, or ever was, either a community leader or a politician (someone who gains public office via election). In fact, he is a former middle-ranking private banker who worked briefly for Richard Li before being appointed to a government finance & treasury post for which he was ill-equipped and in which he performed poorly.
impala
Indeed, but phrasing it that way is not how you help an old-chum make a political come-back you see. An editorial like this is a tell-tale sign. Fred Ma will be taking up one of those vacant ExCo seats before the end of the year. If not before the end of the month that is.
XYZ
Got it. Good call.
JC
I mean what makes SCMP think they haven't already been overtaken by Singapore? The most competitive Asian city and economy in the world? Most business friendly as well?

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