CY Leung policy address 2014

Think tank's silence raises concern

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 3:57am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 5:19am

A leading think tank's decision not to submit any recommendations for today's policy address has raised questions over the effectiveness of the government's campaign to gather public views ahead of the chief executive's keynote speech.

The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre was seen as a leading adviser to the former administration of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, submitting proposals for his final two policy speeches, as well as Leung Chun-ying's maiden address last year.

But a spokeswoman for the centre, founded in 2006, said it had not made a submission this time because it had instead been issuing "timely" policy analyses twice a week throughout the year.

"We have already been making recommendations … as our analyses were sent to government bureaus," she said.

She dismissed the idea that the think tank was disappointed with the government's attitude to past submissions and said some of its proposals had been adopted or "triggered discussions".

Leung began a public consultation exercise in October to gather opinion on his second policy address and on the government's budget, which will be announced next month.

The consultation included three public forums, but the meetings were overshadowed by protests.

The think tank's spokeswoman declined to comment on the consultation process, but Dr Victor Zheng Wan-tai, a research fellow at Chinese University, said officials should reflect on their outreach efforts, especially given studies showing low expectations of the policy speech.

"If officials are concerned about people's pressing needs, public opinion and the think tank's reaction should be alarming for them," Zheng said.

A Chinese University poll last month found that 45 per cent of Hongkongers had "no expectations" for the policy address, up 11 percentage points on a similar poll before last year's speech. Zheng said the poll showed that the consultation was a failure. City University Professor Ray Yep Kin-man, also research director of policy think tank SynergyNet, agreed with Zheng.

"Some organisations' decisions to give up on tabling their suggestions could be reflecting public [discontent that] … the government was not responding to their demands," he said.

SynergyNet had never submitted recommendations for the policy address because its members had been advising on public policy as members of the government's Central Policy Unit, the think tank's vice-chairman Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang added.