My Take

Some hits, many misses during CY Leung’s tenure

Chief executive appears to have had good intentions but on some big issues, such as housing and democratic reform, there has been little to no progress

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 3:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 3:02am

After the longest of his five policy addresses, some people may think Leung Chun-ying was trying to define his legacy with his swansong yesterday. But, reading his address as a whole, it has a much more modest and humble goal – to finish what he started five years ago or at least try to do so.

He scores high marks for finally phasing out the so-called offset mechanism by which bosses can use their part of the Mandatory Provident Fund contributions to cover workers’ benefits when they are let go. This has been a contentious issue for more than a decade and is now finally being resolved.

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Coupled with the eventual goals of centralising all MPF payments into a single account per worker and allowing full freedom for employees to pick their own funds, the pension system will improve significantly over time.

Leung, however, has thrown in the towel on standard working hours. Despite the modest 44 hours per week that labour leaders have demanded, the business community has proved to be intransigent. And this government never has seemingly had the gumption to take on the bosses.

Despite pressure from many welfare groups, Leung has again resisted any retirement payments without a means test for elderly applicants. Reasonable people may disagree, but the government’s argument that money should only go to those who need it is perfectly sound. If everyone gets it when they retire, the pie for those who need it most will be much smaller.

No one can deny the Leung government has done much for low-income families and other disadvantaged groups. This continues with new subsidies for university undergraduates who have to self-finance their own education.

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On housing, Leung admits it has been a tough nut to crack. While government measures have curbed property speculation, flat prices remain unaffordable for many people, while the living conditions of many families have actually worsened. This is one area that will remain the biggest challenge for the next government. Leung hinted at the need to develop some country parks in the address yesterday. This will be a hard sell.

By the end, Leung had not addressed what was perhaps the biggest elephant in the room, or the legislative chamber – the direction of democratic development after his failed reform for universal suffrage. It’s just as well. No one really knows where to go from here.