Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's vision for innovation bureau needs new approach in Legco
As chief executive pursues innovation bureau plan, he may end up bogged down by reality
With the budget filibuster dragging on in Legco, the government under pressure to avoid a looming fiscal cliff, and public opinion split, one person has been conspicuously absent amid all the drama - Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Leung spared himself by taking a week-long trip to Sweden and Belgium in mid-May. He described the trip as a learning experience to better understand the countries' innovation and hi-tech development. Highlights of Leung's visit to Stockholm included meeting the minister for information technology and energy, visiting higher education institutes and meeting top financial officials.
In Brussels, besides calling on the King, Leung met European Commission and European Council heads and business heavyweights. Such activities revealed his true agenda - to revive his failed bid to create a Bureau of Innovation and Technology, and turn the city into a regional innovation hub.
A blog entry by Leung on his return noted that Sweden's population was only slightly larger than Hong Kong's at nine million but its GDP was 40 to 50 per cent higher. "Innovation and scientific development must be the major driving forces behind such high growth," he wrote.
Leung said Hong Kong could and should be able to achieve what Sweden has achieved.
He said that such a paradigm shift was "a trip of a thousand miles which needs to start from the very first step" - the setting up of the new bureau.
Leung is right that this first step could be far more difficult than anticipated.
Leung is urging lawmakers to give the green light before the Legco session ends in July. But the chances of this happening are getting slimmer, as the bill concerning the bureau is at the back of a long queue created by the budget filibuster.
After setting housing and livelihood issues as his top priority, Leung understands that now is the time to prioritise innovation and do something about Hong Kong's long-term competitiveness.
The latest rankings show that universities in Hong Kong have been eclipsed by those in Singapore and South Korea; a global competitiveness study showed Singapore beats Hong Kong in economic performance and education.
These are loud and clear warnings that Hong Kong can no longer be complacent.
If Leung can succeed in pushing the innovation industry, he can prove himself a leader with vision - putting him in good stead for a second term. His wish is one thing; political reality is another. While innovation can drive our economy and enhance efficiency, the fate of the new bureau depends on "innovative miracles" in Legco.