【明報專訊】CHIEF EXECUTIVE Carrie Lam has published her first policy address, in which she does away with ideological creeds such as "small government" and "non-intervention" and seeks to expand the functions of the government as well as increase public expenditures. There are not only welfare policies, the so-called "sweeteners", but also measures aimed at promoting long-term social developments. Hong Kong society is laden with deep-seated problems, and measures to enhance people's livelihood are no panacea — It is simply impossible to rely on them to solve political divisions. However, given the fact that Hong Kong's fiscal reserves now exceed $1 trillion and the government is flush with money, there is no reason why it should cease to be proactive and purposeful. It is a step in the right direction for the government to try to bring itself and the civil society together to rebuild the property ladder, increase housing supply, promote innovation and technology and improve the business environment. This, however, will inevitably entail the allocation of enormous interests, and as such will be prone to become something it is not supposed to be. The government must do a good job of enforcing the regulations and ensure the transparency of the implementation of the policies to prevent those profit-seekers to take advantage of the opportunity to rake in gains and create new social tensions.
ENG audio 1
In the policy address, more than 224 new measures have been proposed. These new measures not only provide an outline of the government's vision but also include some practical measures. What citizens are most concerned about is, no doubt, the problems of housing and transportation, especially a non-means-tested scheme to subsidise travel expenses. Some people are of the opinion that a subsidy of just $300 at most a month is paltry. However, to some working people, such a subsidy is still what they can benefit from. Furthermore, the subsidy is available to not only riders of the MTR but also users of public transportation systems such as buses, franchised mini-buses and ferries. This will prevent the criticism that the government is trying to drum up the ridership of the MTR.
ENG audio 2
In the policy address the government also tries to address some structural problems and strives to advance innovation and technology and implement the reform of the tax system. All this has to do with the diversification of industries and enhancement of competitiveness. Admittedly, the policy address does not touch on some deep-seated conflicts such as political reform and social mobility. The government has proposed to reopen the East Wing Forecourt of the government headquarters (known as the "Civil Square") as an olive branch. But its effect on healing political divisions will be limited.
ENG audio 3
Hong Kong's deep-seated conflicts have to do with not only politics but also the economy and people's livelihood. The political deadlock cannot be solved in the short term. So the focus is on enhancing people's livelihood. People have been unhappy for years for a number of reasons. However, the government's failure to tackle issues like housing and healthcare properly are definitely among those important factors that have aggravated people's discontent. No political issue is of greater importance than people's livelihood. Enhancing people's livelihood is definitely one of the ways to alleviate people's dissatisfaction.
ENG audio 4
Given what is happening globally, the government needs to be more proactive in order to advance social and economic development. It is not necessary to be held back by the ideological differences between "small government" and "big government". Without a shadow of a doubt, as the government expands its role and functions, there will be more that it can do. Not only is it understandable that the government has chosen to enhance its efficiency and work in tandem with the business community and the civil society, but there is also a practical need to do so. That said, the government must be prudent to ensure that its policies are fair and just, its resources are used properly, its execution of policies is efficient and smooth and it does not depart from its goals so as to prevent problem.