HK Magazine Archive

Three Years On: The Economy, Stupid

How has CY Leung managed the SAR's economy in the last three years?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 July, 2015, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:44pm

He Said:

  • Boost the minimum wage!
  • Grow the economy, obviously!

He Did: 

  • CY is often accused of looking for easy ways to deflect criticism (for example, when he blamed the city’s shortage of land for the poor treatment of residents at homes for the elderly), and he was quick to suggest last year’s Umbrella Movement would potentially damage exporters in the SAR as the territory’s image nosedived. But the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council found that export businesses were not affected by the pro-democracy protests and foreign buyers didn’t cancel their orders despite the chaos on the streets.
  • Indeed, CY’s dire warnings that economic fallout was inevitable were misplaced. Initially jittery luxury store closures and stock market selloffs quickly passed, with the SAR rising to outperform many other emerging markets even in that first turbulent week. Although CY may claim that under his watch the city has prospered, in truth, with such a robust economy at his disposal, even kung fu star Sammo Hung would probably have been able to guide the SAR to strong financial results.

“We will step up communication with young people, provide more opportunities for them to take part in politics…”
Manifesto for the Chief Executive Election 2012


  • While CY has warned that the economy will probably remain sluggish as political instability continues to spook investors and entrepreneurs, he hasn’t backed this up with hard facts. On the same day he was casting his gloomy predictions in December 2014, an HKTDC report predicted that Hong Kong exports were expected to grow 3 percent in the next year.
  • While under CY the statutory minimum wage has increased by 8.3 percent to $32.50 an hour, it’s still short $7.20 from the proposed $39.70 per hour that the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions is lobbying for. Meanwhile in January 2015, CY made a U-turn on a promise made before he took office to freeze his own pay and that of his cabinet ministers, instead signing off on a personal pay rise of 5.68 percent, from $351,880 a month to $371,885. He’s the second-best paid head of state in the world.
  • Earlier this year former CE contender and ex-chief secretary Henry Tang told that while he didn’t think Leung’s government has improved the overall competitiveness of Hong Kong as a major international business center, he likewise hadn’t damaged it. “I think he has just been too busy dealing with one crisis after another… some of his own volition, some not,” he added.

The Grade: B