Lam’s visit re­veals her key ob­jec­tives Zhou Ba­jun

Notes the new chief ex­ec­u­tive’s first over­seas stop — Sin­ga­pore — and con­trasts the city-state’s de­vel­op­ment model to HK’s ‘pos­i­tive non-in­ter­ven­tion­ism’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet­ngor, af­ter an­nounc­ing on Tues­day the ap­point­ment of un­der sec­re­taries for 10 pol­icy bu­reaus and po­lit­i­cal as­sis­tants for sev­eral, on Wed­nes­day be­gan her first of­fi­cial visit as CE to Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land.

She an­swered ques­tions raised by re­porters from the two coun­tries be­fore de­par­ture. On the one hand, she noted, Hong Kong can learn from Sin­ga­pore, es­pe­cially its gov­ern­ment’s proac­tive and hands-on style of gov­ern­ing. Lam be­lieves her gov­ern­ment, in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing ser­vices and mar­ket reg­u­la­tion, should like its Sin­ga­porean coun­ter­part be an en­abler; it has to con­vince more for­eign busi­nesses to in­vest in Hong Kong’s de­vel­op­ment projects. She said Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore face sim­i­lar chal­lenges, such as main­tain­ing a com­pet­i­tive edge amid eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion, deal­ing with an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and giv­ing young peo­ple hope for a bet­ter fu­ture. She is con­fi­dent the two sides can co­op­er­ate in re­solv­ing those is­sues in an in­ter-com­ple­men­tary man­ner.

On the other hand, she ex­plained, she chose Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land for her first visit as Hong Kong’s CE be­cause the two coun­tries are both As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) mem­bers with which Hong Kong is keen to in­crease ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion. She added that an agree­ment between Hong Kong and ASEAN on form­ing a free trade zone might be signed as early as late this year.

The ideas she shared with re­porters on Wed­nes­day are in fact the main theme of her first for­eign trip as the new CE.

For one thing, openly ex­press­ing the de­sire to learn from the Sin­ga­porean gov­ern­ment’s ad­min­is­tra­tive pref­er­ence and style sig­nals Lam’s in­tent to say good­bye to the 1970s mantra of “pos­i­tive non-in­ter­ven­tion­ism” adopted by the Bri­tish Hong Kong gov­ern­ment. This is a turn­ing point in Hong Kong’s pub­lic pol­icy ori­en­ta­tion if you will.

“Pos­i­tive non-in­ter­ven­tion­ism” em­pha­sizes that the gov­ern­ment should not and can­not put its nose in in­di­vid­ual in­dus­tries’ or sec­tors’ de­vel- The au­thor is a se­nior re­search fel­low of China Ever­bright Hold­ings. op­ment and can only pro­vide them with “pub­lic goods” — that is rules, reg­u­la­tions and in­fras­truc­ture.

That pre­vi­ous terms of the SAR gov­ern­ment more or less stuck to “non­in­ter­ven­tion­ism” may be a main rea­son why Hong Kong’s high-tech in­dus­try has yet to make an im­pact on the na­tional or re­gional, and much less the world, stage.

In clear con­trast Sin­ga­pore has made im­pres­sive strides in de­vel­op­ing its own high-tech in­dus­try con­sis­tently. Lee Kuan Yew, the late found­ing fa­ther of the tiny city state across the Jo­hor Strait from Malaysia, wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy that, when he was prime min­is­ter in the 1970s, he tire­lessly tried for years to con­vince Western business con­glom­er­ates to in­vest in Sin­ga­pore and his ef­forts fi­nally paid off in the shape of the Jurong In­dus­trial Park (JIP).

A joint study by Cor­nell Univer­sity, INSEAD and the World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Or­ga­ni­za­tion last year put Sin­ga­pore in sixth place on the inno- va­tive­ness chart, be­hind pow­er­houses such as the United States and United King­dom. Given its lack of nat­u­ral re­sources and mea­ger size, how­ever, Sin­ga­pore as a very young city state has a lot to be proud of stand­ing among those “gi­ants”.

“It is not too late to mend the fold even af­ter some sheep have been lost.” This old Chi­nese say­ing no doubt still ap­plies in Hong Kong. There are quite a few is­lands in Hong Kong wa­ters, in­clud­ing Lan­tau, suit­able for a new high-tech in­dus­trial park like Sin­ga­pore’s JIP if the SAR gov­ern­ment de­cides to start anew as Lee did as head of gov­ern­ment dur­ing Sin­ga­pore’s hum­ble be­gin­nings.

It should be noted, how­ever, that once Hong Kong has made the de­ci­sion to let the gov­ern­ment change course, so to speak, and speed up the pace of high-tech in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment, there will be no turn­ing back af­ter­wards. A nec­es­sary set of poli­cies, laws and ad­min­is­tra­tive mea­sures must be in place to fa­cil­i­tate co­op­er­a­tion with busi­nesses and banks in achiev­ing the goal. More ef­forts are also needed to en­hance Hong Kong’s role in the de­vel­op­ment of the Guang­dong-Hong KongMa­cao Greater Bay Area city clus­ter.

Mean­while, it is a mat­ter of course that Hong Kong needs to reach an agree­ment soon with ASEAN na­tions on es­tab­lish­ing a free trade zone like the one between the main­land and 10-mem­ber ASEAN, also known as “10+1”. It will serve both par­ties well when trade op­por­tu­ni­ties arise from in­vest­ment projects born of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

Ac­cord­ing to a prospec­tive action plan an­nounced by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in March 2015, there will be an eco­nomic cor­ri­dor between China’s coastal re­gions and the In­dochina Penin­sula, of­fer­ing ASEAN na­tions an im­por­tant role to play in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. Many in­fras­truc­ture de­vel­op­ment projects will be launched to turn the “eco­nomic cor­ri­dor” into re­al­ity, in­clud­ing roads, air­ports, sea ports and all the util­i­ties needed for new in­dus­trial parks and trans­port fa­cil­i­ties to func­tion. Hong Kong’s pro­fes­sion­als and their ex­per­tise will be in hot de­mand by then. There is no bet­ter time for Hong Kong to take the plunge than now.

Openly ex­press­ing the de­sire to learn from the Sin­ga­porean gov­ern­ment’s ad­min­is­tra­tive pref­er­ence and style sig­nals Lam’s in­tent to say good­bye to the 1970s mantra of “pos­i­tive non-in­ter­ven­tion­ism” adopted by the Bri­tish Hong Kong gov­ern­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.