Economists might tell us the wealth of Hong Kong is built on four Ps: people, participation, productivity and poppycock. The long-awaited consultation paper of the steering committee on population policy is out at last. It was unveiled at a media conference last week by Hong Kong's superwoman, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who chaired the committee. Lam is so nicknamed because she is charged with the unenviable task of steering a number of committees on disparate issues, from rubbish dumps to electoral reform. She is spreading herself rather thin. Still, if anyone knew how to conduct a media conference, she did. Fluent in Chinese and English, she revealed the challenges ahead with ne'er a micro twitch to her face. Micro twitches are a dead giveaway of hidden fears. Essentially, the city's ageing population and low birth rate mean that in 30 years, one in three people will be over 65. Labour force participation will also drop dramatically, thereby further endangering the already narrow tax base. The consultation paper focused on specific issues and invited ideas on how to cope with the looming crisis. But look at the 52-page paper and it is clear that many questions beg to be answered. There is a maze of missing links and no-go zones. Complex subjects fundamental to population policy, such as health and housing, are being dealt with separately. The current One-way Permit Scheme is also out of bounds. One wonders whether ours is a nanny government. So the paper is slammed right from the start. Be that as it may, let us focus on what is achievable in the context of the paper. Every risk presents an opportunity. It is time to think outside the box. To encourage a baby boom, we could introduce: Incentive payments of generous baby bonuses; Baby-friendly workplaces with nursing areas and crèches to allow mothers to breastfeed and care for babies in the office; Flexible working hours to better utilise available labour. The use of modern technological devices, necessary to finding new ways of working and communicating, should be part of the basic plan. Subsidised training for those willing to join the workforce in appropriate areas will reduce the need for imported labour. The list can go on ad nauseam. Once we find and join the missing links, bingo, we shall face the future undaunted. Elizabeth Wong was secretary for health and welfare from 1990 to 1994 and a lawmaker from 1995 to 1997.