Consult the people to improve governance
Recent surveys show a worrying trend of growing dissatisfaction with the quality of life and a greater desire, especially among the young, to emigrate
Nothing is more damaging to a government than losing public support. In this respect, the findings of two recent surveys indicate a worrying trend that warrants the attention of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Public grievance seems to have reached a dangerously high level. Without measures to address it, people may vote with their feet.
According to a study by the think tank Civic Exchange, seven in 10 people find the city a worse place to live in since they first started living here, while 40 per cent say they would leave given the chance. The figure for those aged between 18 and 29 was 60 per cent. The findings echo those of an earlier study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which found that more than 10 per cent of those who intended to emigrate had made plans to do so already.
The potential exodus is spurred by growing discontent in most aspects of governance and quality of life. For instance, more than 80 per cent of the city’s youth are unhappy with housing and governance. While overall dissatisfaction among all age groups is somewhat lower, most people feel they have little say over policies and decisions. Officials perform particularly poorly in listening to the people, carrying out decisions and resolving social conflicts, according to the Civic Exchange survey.
Although those who eventually quit Hong Kong may be in the minority, it is still worrying when so many lack a sense of belonging. More than 60 per cent of the respondents said the city was neither a good place to retire nor for children to grow up. Worse, they do not have high hopes of change within five years.
With eight months to go in his current term, it is incumbent upon the chief executive to address the prevailing sentiments. The consultation on the government’s budget and policy address provides a good opportunity to respond to people’s aspirations.
A city’s well-being stems from trust and cooperation between the leaders and the governed. Officials would do well to reflect on the inadequacies in governance and work harder to restore public confidence in the government.