Chief executive’s policy address 2017

CY’s critics give credit where it is due, but call for reflection

Top adviser to the city’s first chief executive says CY Leung missed the opportunity to reflect on his failings, but has set the pace for his successor

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 11:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 11:16am

When it comes to tackling livelihood issues, even critics of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying are prepared to give him credit for policy initiatives in tackling poverty and ensuring care for the elderly, which have set the trajectory for the next administration to follow.

But Professor Lau Siu-kai, the top adviser to the city’s first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, said Leung had missed an opportunity to use his swansong policy address to engage in a humble reflection of the failings of his governance over the past five years.

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Joseph Wong Wing-ping, a former civil service minister, said the next government should continue to implement and follow up several of Leung’s sensible policies, such as the gradual abolition of the offsetting mechanism that allows companies to use the money they put into the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) to offset severance and long-service payments.

“Leung’s proposal has struck a good balance in protecting employees’ interests and alleviating the financial burden on employers,” Wong said. “The next administration should strive to implement the proposal.”

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Under the offset mechanism, employers are allowed to use their portion of contributions to the MPF to offset the severance or long service payments due an employee.

The government proposed bearing part of the cost in the 10 years after the abolition is implemented. It could total HK$6 billion and the government is not expected to fund the employers after 10 years.

University of Hong Kong professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun gave Leung seven out of a possible 10 marks on welfare and livelihood issues.

“Leung has made some achievements in elderly and welfare issues. He can’t get all things done as there are some structural problems which can’t be resolved by any individual,” Chow said.

Speaking at a briefing for senior editors from various media on Wednesday, Leung said he expected the next administration to continue some of his policies but he agreed “different people had different style.

“The next chief executive may have his or her own priorities.”

Lau, also former head of the Central Policy Unit, the Hong Kong government’s think tank, said it was beyond doubt that Leung had spent a lot of efforts in improving people’s livelihoods, alleviating poverty and facilitating the city’s economic development.

“However, his policy measures still have some way to go before fully addressing the relevant problems,” Lau said. “Leung had come up with many policy items in the past five years but they are mainly incremental measures based on existing policies. There is a dearth of important policy changes.”

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Noting that the popularity of the Leung administration was lower than those led by Tung and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Lau said Leung should have used his last policy blueprint to reflect on achievements and shortcomings of his five-year tenure.

“By doing a humble reflection, Leung can sum up the lessons and point the direction for his successors,” Lau said. “But he didn’t do so. It is a reflection of his temperament and character.”

In his swansong policy address in January 2005, Tung candidly admitted the inadequacies of his governance.

“In formulating policies, we fell short of ‘thinking what people think’ and ‘addressing people’s pressing needs’,” Tung said at the time. ”We introduced too many reform measures too hastily, putting heavy burdens on our people. We also lacked a sense of crisis, political sensitivity as well as the necessary experience and capability to cope with political and economic changes.”

Tung’s last policy speech was delivered two months before he resigned citing health reasons.

In the closing chapter of his policy speech, Leung described Hong Kong as a blessed land. “We must cherish the blessing and treasure our hard-earned achievements, advantages and cross-strata harmony,” he said.

“We must also value our opportunities and waste no time. Let us work with one heart and one vision to create a promising future.”

Additional reporting by Joyce Ng