Hopes for happiness are on many a mind with the coming of a new year. As we embark on this year of the goat , the wishes and desires would seem stronger than usual. The slowing economy, the housing crisis, perennial air pollution, the political divide - they were the focus of attention last year, but are not what we want or need. Lives would be much improved were they to be resolutely dealt with. The ritual drawing yesterday of the fortune stick at Sha Tin's Che Kung Temple by the Heung Yee Kuk's chairman, Lau Wong-fat, has indicated an "average" year lies ahead. A fortune teller's reading of the stick, number 20, is that this goat year we should be pragmatic and not driven by greed. There is a political dimension to the drawing, as Lau, also an Executive Councillor, pointed out. He sensibly linked the reading to Beijing's political reform framework, saying it should be approved as a first step. Beijing has made clear it is not going to accede to the demands of pan-democrats for its revision. If recent regional and global surveys are any guide, a lot of work has to be done if matters are to improve. Hong Kong ranked behind Singapore and Osaka in a regular happiness study carried out by City University of Hong Kong, a position worse even than during Sars in 2003. Of the six areas assessed - politics and society, the environment, public health, housing, leisure and entertainment, and the economy - our city came last on all but the latter. An annual league table of the world's most livable cities issued last month by human resources consultancy ECA International showed Hong Kong falling 16 places to 33 from last year; Singapore topped that survey. Political divisions tied to last year's Occupy movement were a common factor affecting results of both studies. Housing also featured, as did air pollution. Being bested by Singapore, our great rival, is difficult to accept, but reality has to be faced in some respects: For one, the city-state's government does a good job with ensuring affordable homes. We each have hopes for this year of the goat, but making inroads on at least one of Hong Kong's challenges would lift spirits. The government has a significant role to play, although a city is what its people make it to be. Healing political divisions would be a good place to start. All Hongkongers, particularly lawmakers, need to be pragmatic; refusing to accept Beijing's proposal will gain only continued bad blood, but accepting it will at least ease rifts and bring democracy a step closer.