After 16 years, the Hong Kong government has finally managed to introduce mandatory rubbish bags of 11 sizes from the smallest (three litres) at 30 HK cents to the largest (660 litres) at HK$73. The aim is to tackle the city’s accumulating mountains of rubbish. That was what the environment minister was already saying back then, more than a decade and a half ago. In a newspaper photo, Wong Kam-sing, who has been the environment chief since 2012, gives a forced smile about the scheme that shows more embarrassment than genuine happiness or relief. Wouldn’t you? Hong Kong set to introduce waste-charging scheme after years of delay Oh, did I mention the full plan won’t start just yet? Officials have been given at least 18 months to prepare for the implementation of the new system. After that, legislators will review its effectiveness and then decide whether people and businesses, given their economic conditions, can bear the burden of paying to dispose of rubbish. I have been making fun of British inefficiency in government and the private sector recently. Well, maybe we aren’t so far behind, or ahead, as the case may be. The bureaucratic evolution of this rubbish scheme tells us a lot about how the post-handover government works, or rather, doesn’t work. If charging mandatory rubbish disposal has taken so long to launch, what about far more complicated issues such as insufficient and poor housing, discriminatory housing rights in the New Territories, lengthening queues for many key medical specialist treatments, the exodus and emigration of public medical personnel, and the perceived decline of education standards in local schools? I suppose that’s why our landfills are full or overflowing; chronic patients become terminal; more people than ever end up living in decrepit partitioned flats; and more of them despair of ever being assigned a public rental unit or offered a subsidised flat. But, given our government’s track record, do we seriously think local officials will be able to address such persistent problems? Sadly, they talk big but do little. Now, under the latest national five-year plan, they are banging on about how important it is to integrate Hong Kong with the rest of the Guangdong-Macau Greater Bay Area . But unless they are led by the hand, they won’t know what to do. So far as Beijing is concerned, this government has been more than high maintenance. Hong Kong suffers not from too much mainland “interference” but too little. Without sound bureaucratic and policy guidance from up north, this government is lost.