Hong Kong’s next chief executive should remember that livelihood issues come first

Holden Chow says our next leader must continue to make long-term investments for the city, and candidates must explain how they intend to do it

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 8:42pm

The news that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will not be seeking re-election has disappointed some people, including myself, but I respect his decision. Though he failed to establish a good working relationship with the pan-democrats, Leung should be commended for his work on livelihood matters, including the launch of a technology bureau and his efforts to boost housing supply.

The next person to take the top job must sustain this good work. In particular, he or she must continue to push for long-term planning for the good of Hong Kong. The plan to build an artificial island next to Lantau that will house up to 700,000 people, for instance, will benefit future generations and must be supported.

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Another important issue is social mobility. Over the past decade, the average income of our white-collar workers has remained largely unchanged while living costs have surged. As a result, their standard of living has declined. How can we generate more income for these hardworking individuals and families? Candidates running for the office of chief executive should explain how they intend to tackle the problem. This means suggesting ways to create more business and enlarge Hong Kong’s market share in various industries. Furthermore, candidates must show they can convince Hong Kong people that we must make full use of our ties to the mainland for economic growth, and that escalating the tension between Hong Kong and the mainland will only harm us.

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The global economic prospects look bleak. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong government is expecting a budget surplus at the end of this fiscal year. In light of the uncertain economic environment, the financial secretary should raise the upper limit of tax refunds for small and medium-sized enterprises, which are a pillar of our economy.

Leung should be commended for his work on livelihood matters

The government should also invest in technology to enhance SMEs’ business opportunities.

Whoever is the next leader, he or she must direct fiscal policy towards making long-term investment. The government should play a role in redistributing wealth, not just uphold the laissez-faire principle. We must not forget that it was the Donald Tsang administration’s decision to limit housing supply and suspend the provision of subsidised housing that led to our housing crunch. This is a painful lesson we must learn.

Hong Kong bureaucrats generally dislike trying new things, but the current government has attempted to cut through inertia by launching some bold projects involving long-term commitments, such as the East Lantau Metropolis project.

I hope Leung’s successor will continue such efforts.

Holden Chow is a DAB legislator