Editorial : Tear down old walls and rebuild new HK

【明報專訊】THE INCUMBENT GOVERNMENT will deliver its last policy address today (October 6). Two main focuses will be on dealing with the land and housing issue and Hong Kong's integration into the bigger picture of national development. Thanks to the dramatic changes in Hong Kong's political situation over the past two years, the original setting of the city's system is already gone. To plan vital reconstruction after the radical destruction, what the city needs is policies, determination and actions. One should not indulge in empty talk or be content with personal good feelings simply because of the city's return to a stable condition now. Whether the new policy address is prescribing the right remedy is something that needs to be examined from the perspective of tearing down old walls and rebuilding the new city. The authorities have to be far-sighted when dealing with the sore points here and now, trying their best to achieve immediate results. Merely having a grand but empty blueprint is not enough to achieve big results. Be it the waiting time for public rental housing, the streamlining of the procedures for developing land or the development of the northern New Territories, the authorities must set clear targets and concrete timetables for implementation.

Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor mentioned that the last policy address of the incumbent government will "focus on the future" and give a summary of the work it has done. Earlier, she said that of the more than 900 measures announced in the last four policy addresses, "only a few could not be accomplished". Therefore, the effectiveness of her governance "could not be said as bad". However, to examine the effectiveness of governance, the real key is not how many pieces of work the officials have done, but whether targets have been met and desirable results have been achieved through their work. Given the seriousness of deep-seated conflicts in Hong Kong society, a large bundle of measures that are actually merely patchy fixes do not help solve the age-old problems about people's livelihood at all.

In retrospect of the government's work over the past few years, from the launching of the life annuity scheme to the adoption of the waste-charging law, although the tasks have been done, there has been a considerable gap between the outcomes and the expectations. Some measures have met with only a lukewarm response from the citizens. Some measures have been in limbo, and not even the time for implementation has been set. Even if we do not mention the broken promise on abolishing the MPF offsetting arrangement, the authorities' performance regarding land creation and housing construction has been far from satisfactory. The waiting time for public rental housing has increased continuously to an average of 5.8 years now. The government announced in the policy address last year that 330 hectares of land had been identified, which would meet the demand for building 316,000 public housing units in the coming 10 years and would thus fulfil for the first time the target set in the Long Term Housing Strategy and so forth. However, figures revealed by the Housing Authority and the Housing Society several months ago on housing production show that the actual number of public housing units built this year is only 10,000 or more, the lowest level in six years. It was projected that only around 100,000 units can be built in the next five years, inviting doubts about whether the target of building 310,000 units in 10 years can really be achieved.

Solving the housing problem and integrating the city into the bigger picture of national development are, to a certain extent, two uncompromisable tasks that the SAR government must work on. The continuity of the policies concerned is not supposed to be affected much by the change of administrations. An enterprising government should set clear and ambitious targets and then carry out the tasks vigorously. Only then can it tear down old walls and rebuild the new Hong Kong.








effectiveness : the fact of producing the result that is wanted or intended; the fact of producing a successful result

deep-seated : very fixed and strong; difficult to change or to destroy

enterprising : having or showing the ability to think of new projects or new ways of doing things and make them successful

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