If it was a Valentine’s Day gift, it would be a couple of stale Ferrero Rocher chocolates and a wilted flower yanked from a Leisure and Cultural Services sitting-out area. Carrie Lam, China’s choice for next Hong Kong Chief Executive, produces her very limited selection of timid and insipid policy ideas. A quasi-platform befitting a quasi-election.
The most eye-catching item is a HK$5 billion-a-year boost in education spending (actual beneficiaries to be decided). A similar allocation of unused surplus revenues to health-care would be an obvious and easy supplement to this – but it’s not there. Instead there’s a lame cut in (already low) taxes for small business, and vague-sounding incentives for R&D/cultural/blah-blah investment.
As for the number-one issue of housing, the best she can do is another layer of subsidized homes for the latest economic stratum (the upper middle-class) to be priced out of the insane private-sector residential market.
Even the Beijing-friendly media are underwhelmed. The South China Morning Post charitably describes Carrie as ‘refusing to take the bait’ of offering any substance.
Officially, this is a ‘prelude’. The lady will release more details later, after the nomination period, which begins today. In other words, she will tell us her plans only after the ballot is finalized – nominate me first, then I’ll reveal my platform. When you have already been picked as winner of a rigged election, it doesn’t matter.
Her campaign team do actually call this an ‘Election Manifesto Prelude’. Maybe it escaped reporters’ notice, or perhaps it didn’t make the final press release, but one little phrase in the part on housing should at least slightly jump out. She will, in the finest Hong Kong civil-service tradition, establish a Community Engagement Prevarication Task Force of ‘professionals’ to investigate ways to increase land supply from various possible sources, and one of these will be ‘land reserves of private developers’…
It is unusual for anyone in the establishment to mention private-sector developers – let alone their hoarded land – as having some possible connection with our housing problems.
In the meantime, Carrie sends her apologies and explains that, unlike her rivals, she didn’t have time to think up detailed plans…
During 35-plus years in government diligently administering all sorts of policies, she never stopped to ask herself ‘are there better ways of doing these things?’