• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 3:28pm
CY Leung policy address 2014
CommentInsight & Opinion

CY Leung's policy address delivers the goods in most departments

Philip Yeung lauds C.Y. Leung for a blueprint that strikes a balance between meeting current needs and planning for the future - and putting the poor and disadvantaged at the heart of new policies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 12:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 9:24am

Few expected any surprises from the chief executive's second policy address. In fact, many had no expectations of any kind; a Chinese University survey showed that as many as 45 per cent of people polled were in that category.

But, given the year of disquiet we have been through, there was a sense of urgency about this year's unveiling of Leung Chun-ying's plan of action for Hong Kong.

Leung has been vilified in some quarters, unfairly in my view. Compared with his predecessor, who was known for his "hate the poor" and "cuddle the rich" policies that have left nearly 20 per cent of the population living in poverty, Leung is showing that he is a leader of the people.

After seven or more years of neglect, livelihood issues are finally getting the attention they deserve. To his credit, Leung has been true to his campaign commitment to do something to address poverty, which features prominently in his latest policy address.

While the Commission on Poverty was first initiated in 2005, it was disbanded just two years later, as if its work was done. Now reinstated, the commission has defined the poverty line for the first time in Hong Kong's history and the needs of the working poor are also being catered to. Further, progress in poverty alleviation will be reviewed annually.

In large measure, this policy address was about helping the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged - people who have been socially excluded from a wealthy society.

For those of us who take pride in Hong Kong being an international society, Leung even had something new to offer the South Asian ethnic minorities in our midst. For the first time, they are receiving government attention, in that a Chinese-as-a-second-language curriculum will be put in place in our schools. Leung will also open the doors to employment opportunities within the government for minority citizens as never before.

The policy address was about the problems of the present and the challenges of the future. Education is about the future. My only quarrel with the extra funding for higher education proposed by the chief executive is that it doesn't go far enough. It is the right prescription with the wrong dosage.

There are currently some 28,000 students enrolled in associate degree programmes. Adding only 1,000 University Grants Committee-funded university places for associate degree holders hardly scratches the surface. The quality of these programmes is quite uneven, and there is a stigma attached to them, such that graduates' earnings are sometimes no more than those of secondary school leavers. The government must therefore monitor these programmes closely, and invite businesses to offer internships to these students.

The chief executive is right to endorse the work of the Vocational Training Council and increase its funding support. Perhaps the eventual solution is to phase out those sub-degree academic programmes. Instead, we should increase our publicly funded undergraduate places to bring our rate of university attendance up to world standards while beefing up the Vocational Training Council's capacity.

The administration of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen largely drew a blank on environmental protection. Leung, by contrast, is lavishing some HK$11.4 billion on subsidising the phasing out of older diesel commercial vehicles. Marine vessels will also be required to reduce the sulfur content of their diesel.

The promotion of green buildings is on the cards, as is waste management through a "pay-as-you-throw" levy. And cyclists will benefit from a bike track from Ma On Shan to Sheung Shui, and eventually Tuen Mun. A new green thinking seems to be taking root within the government leadership.

Despite strong lobbying, the Tsang administration turned a deaf ear to calls for setting up an innovation and technology bureau. If you doubt innovative technology's ability to transform an economy, you only have to look at South Korea and see how far it has come in the past 20 years as a technological powerhouse. So, Leung is to be heartily congratulated for resurrecting the initiative.

Leung campaigned hard on solving our housing problems as a priority. His legacy will no doubt depend on how well he performs in this area. He is promising to increase housing supply by 40 per cent over the next five years, after supply was artificially choked off by the previous administration.

But, much like milk powder for infants, Hong Kong can never meet the insatiable demands of mainland nouveau riche for speculative investment in property. His "Hong Kong land for Hong Kong people" idea must never be shelved.

It takes more than decent housing to make a great city. Hong Kong is now a backwater in major international sports events.

Many organisers of these events have chosen to bypass our city due to a lack of sponsorship or proper facilities. The long-awaited exhibition tennis match in March between Li Na and Samantha Stosur is scheduled to take place in a velodrome. That is sad statement on the state of our sporting infrastructure.

The chief executive is also alive to the economic possibilities of the new "eastern Lantau metropolis" to take advantage of the soon-to-be-completed Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and our direct link to the Pearl River Delta.

All in all, this is a solid blueprint for Hong Kong's immediate and intermediate future, in which the needs of tackling current problems and planning for the future are carefully balanced.

If there is any area for nit-picking, it is in the incremental approach it takes to increasing educational funding. But Leung still deserves three cheers for his new vision and new initiatives.

Philip Yeung is a former speechwriter to the president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Philipkcyeung2@yahoo.com


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This article is now closed to comments

In the mean time, the "indigenous villager"Small House Policy gravy train continues to accelerate at the expense of 95% of the population; wonderful.
The indigenous Hong Kong people only accounts for less than 5% of Hong Kong's population. The majority of the rest come from mainland China since 19th century.
Yes but lest we forget....air quality, water supply, water quality, lack of education facilities, corrupt and venal administration, environmental destruction all unaddressed. And Philip, please read to Tom Holland on the housing issue on the other SCMP pages so you have some economics added to your analytic repertoire rather than uneducated rhetoric
PhilipYeung hangs on every word what delivered in the policy speech mostly out of professional habit of being a speechwriter. But the annual policy speech is passé. There are so many days that follow the speech in the rest of the year that will twist and turn. The information age makes our life standing on our feet. A leader must possess the skill to think and response on their feet as well.
I don’t mind to have our leader greeting us and wishing us a happy new year. Making promises for the rest of the year or more is testing and foolish. And spending months or submitting papers by interest groups for the annual policy speech is even more foolish and wasteful of time.
Everyday can be a policy day. Call a press meeting and let us hear it. Or demand a policy and give government just sufficient time and hear it in a press meeting. Remember, going to legislature is unnecessary. We are not asking the government to make law necessarily.
Pay outs to allow people arriving from the Mainland .... this is outrageous. Communist Party is carrying out a large scale colonization to dilute our idigenous Hong Kong population and this will provide more incentive for more to come!!!
Hong Kong became wealthy because it adapted from manufacturing industry to service industry (shopping/hotels). It is now time for HK to adapt again to stay ahead of the game. What do I mean ? Well in my view HK is a world beater in terms of HEALTH and EDUCATION. Let's move into these areas in a big way - more university places, more hospitals- and HK will be the envy of the world once more.
These are fair and accurate comments to the existing government that should be judged on how it performed dealing with a number of pressing issues in Hong Kong and for the very first time build and develop a clear vision for the future of Hong Kong. The blame game on the political system should be dealt with separately and sensibly.
Hong Kong has suffered long and hard enough for such a behavior losing our status that we worked so hard to achieve..
From Simon
In the mean time, the "indigenous villager"Small House Policy gravy train continues to accelerate at the expense of 95% of the population; wonderful.
The indigenous people has been living in Hong Kong for a few centuries, and the majourity of the land in Hong Kong belongs to them.
I am pleased to see that at last the government is starting to address the poverty issue. Nothing will ever be enough as people crave for more but we must bear in mind that resources are finite. We should afford him time to find his feet on this issue.


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