“Hong Kong is not ‘marginalised’ by China’s growth. Hong Kong needs to let go of areas it has lost competitive advantage, focus where it is competitive and create new strengths for the future”, said Christine Loh, CEO of Civic Exchange, an independent public policy think tank, who released An Alternative Policy Address today ahead of that of the Chief Executive, who will release his on 10 October 2007.
Loh calls on the HKSAR Government to:
Call a stop to building Container Terminal No. 10 in view of massive capacity expansion in Shenzhen;
• Consider a gradual plan to shrink the Kwai Chung container terminals so land can be released for higher value use;
• Clean up shipping, logistics and port operation related pollution locally, as well as cooperate with Shenzhen and the relevant industry sectors to also clean up the ports across the border; and
• Promote trade and high-end maritime services.
In terms of land use policy, Loh urges the government to:
• Adopt sustainable development principles to development;
• Reconstruct and restore the city and countryside to enhance Hong Kong’s brand and long-term value; and
• Review the logic and relevance of the Capital Works Reserve Fund.
In terms of financial services, Loh highlights critical policy areas:
• Government should withdraw from intervention;
• Government has no need to have massive stock holdings, thereby conflicting itself;
• Government has room to return funds to taxpayers in the 2008 Budget and to propose new spending priorities.
As regards good governance, Loh urges the government to become more open and transparent in the next five years and to:
• Pass an Access to Public Information ordinance;
• Pass an Open Meetings ordinance;
• Pass an Archiving of Public Records ordinance;
• Review the Administrative Officers and Professional Officers Grades system to open-up the civil service; and
• Improve public engagement that enables alternative visions and plans to be aired and debated rather than just form a new authority to fine-tune the process.
Critically, Loh points out that to set Hong Kong on a competitive path nationally and internationally, there must be a massive environmental clean-up effort that include:
• A comprehensive energy policy and energy efficiency plan;
• Make public heath the driver for environmental improvement, and invest in environmental health research and data analysis;
• Use the East Asian Games 2009 in Hong Kong and Asian Games 2010 in Guangzhou as milestones to improve air quality (Civic Exchange provides a 5-year plan 2007-2012);
• Work with South China authorities to protect the Pearl River watershed and conserve water usage;
• Produce a Climate Change Action Plan, like London has done, by May 2009, in time for the C40 Cities Summit in Seoul.
Other policies ideas, which Hong Kong can well afford, include the following:
• Implement a triage ambulance service system urgently to save lives;
• Ensure resources for long-term special care patients are not reduced;
• Ask hospitals to develop a children’s protocol that is more child and parents friendly;
• Implement small class teaching in schools;
• Increase Form 6 places even more; and
• Enable more private schools to be set up to increase diversity of educational experience.