Chief Executive candidates must prioritize livelihood issues
With several well-known candidates now vying to be elected next March as Hong Kong’s fourth Chief Executive, the public may hope that each will soon set out her or his electoral platform — a manifesto stating their respective key policy objectives as our next leader and how those objectives can be realistically achieved. After almost 20 years of having Hong Kong chief executives, it can be safely said that this is arguably the most difficult job in town. All the more reason, then, for the candidates to lay out their manifestos clearly to let voters decide which of them possess the right vision and, hence, are most deserving of their support.
Some of the richer countries, such as Kuwait and those in Scandinavia, generously expend a good part of their income on enhancing the medical and social services available to their citizens. Hong Kong is equally wealthy, but so far the provision made for many of its most needy citizens remains minimal in proportion to our resources. A new CE would hopefully bring changes. Bearing in mind that all of those so far expressing interest in standing for this election are nearing or well past retirement age, the Hong Kong public can hope The writer is a seasoned local commentator, university lecturer and honorary lifetime adviser to the Hong Kong Federation of the Blind. that more supportive measures to address the needs of this aging society will become a major part of their respective platforms. Here are a few important points that they might consider incorporating in their election manifestos.
The first and most obvious problem area requiring bold new measures is the dearth of decent but affordable housing. Sadly, too many of Hong Kong’s citizens are squeezed into appalling cage homes, because that is all they can afford. Poor elderly people make up a large part of the unfortunate cage home population. The provision of more residential and day care homes for the elderly unwell would also be welcome, especially as that is clearly going to become a fast-growing category as our population ages.
One of the reasons for Hong Kong’s abysmally low birth rate is that most of our young people, newly married and at an early stage of their careers (meaning not very well paid and with minimal savings), wouldn’t even dream of buying a home to bring up children. Special measures should be introduced to make decent housing affordable to this category of citizens — representing, as they do, the future of Hong Kong. Perhaps some incentives could be introduced by providing housing subsidies to newlyweds, thereby encouraging them to have children. It’s worth noting that the high cost of housing is the main cause of the current social and political discontent.
It is now clear most people will not be able to retire comfortably under the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme. For a start, a simple refund of contributions upon retirement is far from adequate: A monthly paid pension is what’s needed. Furthermore, many of those already in retirement have no pension at all to sustain their declining years in dignity and comfort. The massive financial reserves held by the government — the people’s money — could be dipped into to cover the one-off costs of setting up a real pension scheme that provides each retiring citizen with a livable pension.
To ensure that anyone willing to work would get their just deserts, the minimum wage ought to be raised further. A maximum number of overtime hours could be mandated. Both these steps would greatly enhance the quality of life of thousands of our working class citizens.
Regrettably, with old age (and Hong Kong now has the world’s longest life expectancy) often comes declining health. Many more clinics and hospitals need to be established; more medical staff need to be trained, and our doors open to qualified medical practitioners from overseas to help address the current severe shortage of medical staff.
More determined efforts should be made to clear pavements of obstacles — mainly merchandise from shops and dining tables from ground floor restaurants. Presently they are causing challenges to able-bodied pedestrians and dangers to the old, the frail, the blind and the disabled among us. Where practicable consideration should be given to re-siting lampposts, plant tubs, water hydrants and the like which too often are located mid-pavement. Efforts should be made to ensure that every Hong Kong staircase has a handrail. Many more public toilets are clearly needed here, including those designed for the disabled.
All these practical steps would help improve our city’s livability. Let us hope our CE candidates would be willing to adopt them in their campaign manifestos and that the winner will implement them for the long-term betterment of the lives of thousands of Hong Kong citizens and visitors.
The first and most obvious problem area requiring bold new measures is the dearth of decent but affordable housing. Sadly, too many of Hong Kong’s citizens are squeezed into appalling cage homes, because that is all they can afford.”
A girl makes eye contact with a “polar bear” who has just come from performing at the IFC in Central.