Policy Address offers pragmatic and visionary way to align with nation’s needs

There is no doubt that Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu had a clear perspective on where Hong Kong’s bright tomorrow lies when he drew up his maiden Policy Address, titled “Charting a Brighter Tomorrow for Hong Kong”.

This is evidenced by his plan to set up a Steering Group on Integration into National Development, to be chaired by him, to strengthen the top-level institution for better implementing national strategies, including the national 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and the Belt and Road Initiative.

It is tempting for some people to promote the notion that Hong Kong owes its fortune to the legacy of British rule. But the British had ruled over dozens of overseas territories; few of them have gained the same economic prowess as Hong Kong has. The truth is, Hong Kong has become what it is by making full use of its edges to meet the needs of the country — its economic hinterland — over the decades.

Lee’s proactive approach to integrate Hong Kong’s own development into national development by pressing ahead with strategic projects, including the Northern Metropolis, which will boost Hong Kong’s interconnectivity with neighboring Shenzhen as well as the whole GBA, reveals a sense of urgency to secure a significant role for Hong Kong in the nation’s future socioeconomic development, particularly in the “double circulation” strategy. The urgency for Hong Kong to further integrate into national development has been greatly boosted by the ongoing geopolitical machinations against China, which included the repeated use of the “Hong Kong card”. This explains why Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, saw the need to repeat in his work report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC the call for the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao to further their integration into national development by aligning with national strategies.

A sense of urgency to address Hong Kong residents’ concerns was also palpable in the chief executive’s Policy Address, unveiled on Wednesday. Or as is commonly said, the chief executive feels the pulse of the society.

A pre-Policy Address opinion poll conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute showed that more than 80 percent of respondents believed it was necessary for Lee’s first Policy Address to deal with the “housing” and “healthcare and public health” issues.

The new Light Public Housing (LPH) program, which aims to build in the next five years 30,000 new public-housing units with basic utilities similar to traditional public housing but with lower rent than traditional public housing in the same district, is a great boon to the thousands of families that are struggling with a squalid living environment in either a “cage home” or a subdivided flat.

The plan will help increase Hong Kong’s public-housing supply significantly. Combined with the traditional public rental housing projects, the city’s overall public housing production will increase by a hefty 50 percent to 158,000 units in the next five years compared with the previous five-year period, which will help shorten the average waiting time for applicants on the public rental housing list to around 4.5 years in four years’ time from the current six years before they are awarded a rental flat.

This ambitious goal is no doubt a daunting task to achieve by any yardstick, given the scarcity of developable land in the city. It attests to the chief executive’s determination to grasp the nettle as well as his commitment to a results-oriented governance approach. After all, the housing shortage is the hardest nut to crack in Hong Kong, as proved by the experience of the previous two administrations.

The Policy Address also puts forward a series of practical, innovative and targeted measures to tackle the problems plaguing Hong Kong residents in other areas such as healthcare, elderly care, education and youth development. Those proactive and responsive initiatives to address residents’ concerns show that the new HKSAR government puts the people first and gives top priority to improving people’s well-being.

The Policy Address is both pragmatic and visionary in the sense that it takes into consideration both Hong Kong society’s short- and long-term needs.

The author is a current-affairs commentator.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.