People will need to be convinced if the city is to really strive ahead
In her policy address, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pointed the way forward with massive reclamation for homes and business to banning e-cigarette sales, but she must overcome vested interests for results to be achieved
Building on the theme of “rekindling hope” in her maiden policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor this year provided a clear yet controversial road map for sustainable development, while splashing out on a wealth of livelihood issues. From creating artificial islands to the east of Lantau Island to converting industrial blocks into interim housing; from adjusting cross-harbour tunnel tolls to help ease congestion to strengthening support for ethnic minority groups; and from banning e-cigarette sales to free cervical cancer vaccinations, Lam has sought to address the city’s long-term needs without losing sight of the immediate problems.
The initiatives mapped out in her second policy address underline Lam’s determination to strive for better development. Many involve substantial expenditure and would not be possible without the staggering HK$1 trillion in reserves. Buoyed by an estimated rise of 3 to 4 per cent in economic growth this year, robust public finance has given the city’s leader more room to manoeuvre. But she also warned of economic uncertainties arising from the US-China trade war and pledged to monitor the situation.
The proposed reclamation for artificial islands to increase land supply has understandably aroused much concern. The Lantau Tomorrow Vision involves developing the city’s third core business district, creating 1,700 hectares of land for commercial use and housing for 1.1 million people in 20 to 30 years. Ambitious as it is, the project faces technical, environmental and political hurdles. Officials need to study it carefully and convince the public why it is needed.
Politically, the pledge to crack down on separatism was to be expected. Instead of just repeating her usual line of creating a favourable environment for enacting a national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Lam said she would listen to views and explore ways to enable society to respond positively to the constitutional duty. Her stance on universal suffrage, however, was less forthcoming. Although she was not wrong in saying rashly embarking on political reform again would divert public attention from development, she also cannot ignore the reality that democracy remains a key public aspiration, particularly among youngsters.
Lam sought to address the growing unease in some quarters over the direction in development, saying our strengths were ever increasing and the city was still highly regarded and envied by many. She also rightly acknowledged that development must not be held back by a divergence of views in society. True as it may be, the city cannot strive ahead unless the government gets the people rallying behind it. The government needs to convince sceptics and overcome vested interests in order to show results.