【明報專訊】CHIEF Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will present the policy address today (Oct 10), in which the issue of land and housing is expected to top the agenda. With the Task Force on Land Supply releasing its report only at the end of this year, what the policy address will propose today about increasing land supply is of wide concern. Hong Kong society has been facing too many long-standing major problems that are hard to tackle. The Sino-US trade war is adding even more uncertainties to the local economic outlook. It is impractical to expect the policy address to magically solve all the problems at once. Still, the policy address should bring hopes to our society and boost people's confidence that they still have a chance to improve the situation regarding those pressing problems. It should not give people the impression that they can only leave everything to destiny helplessly and "wait for good luck".
The second policy address by Lam will be one-fifth longer than the one last year. It is expected to unveil about 250 new initiatives covering various policy areas related to people's livelihood. It is understood that the government will provide subsidies for upgrading old elevators, propose extending the statutory maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks, upgrade all primary and secondary school teaching posts to graduate posts, build more public markets in new towns and so forth. Yesterday Lam said that good progress had been made in implementing the 250 initiatives set out in the last policy address and 78 of them had already been implemented so far. However, what people care about most is the problem of land and housing. Obviously, the government still has to redouble its efforts in this regard. It is natural that all focus is on whether there will be a well-thought-out plan in today's policy address.
With intricate issues faced by Hong Kong society, only a populist will say there is a "wonder drug" that can wipe out the problems quickly. It is impossible for the government to solve the old knotty problem of land and housing in one shot with a single policy address. Nevertheless, the policy address should at least convey a message of hope to society. It should give people a real feeling that the government is determined to clear all the blocks in the way of expanding land and is willing to build more subsidised flats as well as cater to the needs of common people in finding and buying homes. The Task Force on Land Supply will release its report only at the end of this year. The government should then choose from the 18 options of increasing land supply on the basis of the report. But preliminary directions for finding land for housing can still be largely laid out in the policy address for the sake of better preparatory work.
The most prominent question asked during the debate on land supply is whether the land newly obtained by the government will be mostly used for private housing. The most common reason offered by some in opposing certain land supply options is "all land gained will only be used to build luxurious flats", which is actually an attempt to shift people's attention to class conflicts and miso-affluence mentality. The current ratio of public to private housing supply is 6:4. In order to dispel doubts about who will benefit from the increase of land supply, the policy address should elaborate clearly how that ratio can be changed and how the proportion of subsidised housing can be increased. Of course, if the shortfall in land supply remains unchanged, increasing the ratio of public to private housing may possibly lead to the market's anticipation of inadequate private housing supply and thus higher pressure of property price increase. However, the "pie of land supply" can be enlarged if the government takes multi-pronged measures like speeding up the process of finding more land for new housing from short to long terms as well as building land reserves by way of land reclamation on a large scale. Foreseeably this may help to lower the anticipation of inadequate private housing supply effectively.
top sth : to be in the highest position on a list because you are the most successful, important, etc.
intricate : having a lot of different parts and small details that fit together
knotty : complicated and difficult to solve