Quotation of the Day

13 December, 2011

雙英團隊照的啟示(原載香港《信報財經新聞》12月12日)

「天下英雄誰敵手,曹劉。」——辛棄疾


時值初冬,北風正勁。海峽兩岸,同時上演雙英對決:這邊廂,是英年對振英;那邊廂,是英九對英文——準備在這兩個極其特殊的華人地區,在2012年產生各自的領導人。

這種巧合,不知會留給未來的歷史學家哪些素材,來評價兩場看似毫不相干的選舉。本來,香港的這一場是評無可評的。第一、我沒有投票權;第二、相信即使如《信報》這樣高水平的報紙,其讀者群中的絕大多數亦不具備投票權。詢問一個沒有投票權的人的看法,如同問你:假如你有畢非德的身家,你對巴郡的投資組合會如何分配?你會買起哪一家上市公司?


比對曹劉令人失望

不過,在眾多有心人有意無意的安排下,經過苦無新聞焦點的媒體挖空心思的追訪,的確為我等一眾對現實感到苦悶、沒有出路的香港人,提供了不少娛樂。

這不是對唐、梁兩人的個人指控,而是一件很無奈的事。這種無奈感,不單清貧的八十後大學生感受到,即便從某些家住山頂的五十後專業人士口中也能聽到。

能把這一場特首之爭打造得如此熱鬧,煞有介事的疑似普選一番,不愧是高招;但除了可以作為日後的電影劇本或公關課題外,對香港的政治困局,真有什麼意義嗎?除了麻痹人心、轉移視線,對此地各種老、大、難的政策選擇,真有什麼作用嗎?

把唐、梁之爭描述為「豬、狼」間的選擇,未免太過人身攻擊。然而,將其比之為曹操對劉備,也實在令人失笑。不過真的如此拿來比較一下,也正好揭示了這場選舉最缺乏的東西。

曹、劉,皆中國歷史上不世出的英雄豪傑。世人只知曹操之奸,而不知其雄;知其深沉、玩弄權術、挾天子以令諸侯,而不知其年輕時不怕獲罪權貴、不戀棧權位,拒絕董卓招攬,寧願潛逃回鄉,以弱小的力量號召諸侯、起兵討卓的那份倔強。

世人也只以為劉備的江山是借回來、哭出來,而忘記他折而不撓,始終拒絕向曹魏稱臣所表現出的堅毅。即使在赤壁戰前行將被滅,仍是「顛沛險難而信義愈明,勢偪事危而言不失道」(史家評語),沒有離棄自己的追隨者,甘與同敗。所以諸葛亮對孫權說劉備是英雄,若事情不濟乃是天意,但絕不投降。

曹、劉展現的英雄氣概,用現代人的話,就是對一己信念的堅持——不管你認為它是對是錯、是否合乎成本效益、甚至是否對他本人有利——這也是新加坡前總理李光耀提出的從政者第一要素。


「忍氣吞聲」本無信念

今觀唐、梁二人,有無明確的信念和堅持?看往績,兩人自回歸後長期出任行政會議成員。唐氏歷經要職,官至香港第二把交椅、近乎內閣首相的政務司司長;梁氏貴為行會召集人,即使不是軍機大臣,也是凡事得以預聞的內閣資政。以此論之,董、曾兩任政府的功過,唐、梁二人豈能說是「無份」?董氏當年邀梁氏研究房屋問題,後者現在又怎能把所有責任,推得一乾二淨?支持八萬五絕不是問題,但對重要議題言詞閃爍,乃至大家都搞不清立場取態,便是當領袖的大問題。

只有在香港這種畸形政制之下,才會任由兩位重量級人物,無聲無色地轉,歷經董建華的「大有為」和曾蔭權的「放任無為」——兩屆施政理念如此不同的政府——卻能全身而退。

政治上轉不一定不容許,但總不能如此「當無事發生過」,總得有個交代吧?否則又如何履行政治問責?香港的從政者,有不少就是太精明、太理性、太計較!以梁氏為例,如自己意見真不見容於曾蔭權內閣,何不學學曹操,撇脫一點,早早辭去行會首席?

與曹、劉不同,唐、梁兩人本身都有亮麗而成功的事業,更毋須像曹劉為信念押上性命,退出的成本低廉。如果不是出於策略上的「忍氣吞聲」,那唯一的合理解釋,便是兩人本無什麼必要堅持的信念,無可無不可也。

歷史上劉備是一心要匡扶漢室,恢復劉氏政權的正統;而曹操則是要行齊桓、晉文之事,在不取代漢室的名義下,削平群雄,恢復天下的安定。兩人信念不同,因此政治路線和支持者便南轅北轍。


團隊照片預見將來

今觀唐、梁二人,有何具體清晰政治路線之爭?梁氏出身基層,肯走入群眾,本來值得稱許,競選宣言開首訴之以情,亦頗令人感動;然而一旦觸及具體政策取向,即侷促於「適度有為」的和稀泥式論述,希望盡力討好各方,既照顧基層又不得失商界。

無奈,特首選舉方式如此,梁氏即使有心也只能向商界施以緩靖政策。梁氏要打造一個七百萬人的政綱,在目前政制下根本是緣木求魚。因為香港政制「府、會」割裂,兼無選舉授權,復無政黨居中協調,根本無可能為執政者打造穩定持久的支持基礎。

至於唐先生的政治宣言,假如其公關團隊尚未草就的話,不妨將「適度有為」適度地改為「適度無為」,既照顧商界又不得失基層;如此,相信雖不中亦不遠矣。

個人非常反對以階級出身論斷一個人的成就和立場。曹操官宦世家,劉備沒落王孫,但對天下英才,皆一視同仁而用之,提拔庶民,不是「來來去去那批人」。

但在香港框框條條的政制下,領袖能否突破自我,背叛自己的階級?觀乎唐、梁二人的造勢和支持者站台,雖都是成就非凡的粒粒巨星,但大抵上是大同小異。



回頭看台灣選舉,馬英九的團隊照包含老、中、青的支持者,還有青春活潑的啦啦隊打氣,健康、開放、有活力;為蔡英文站台的,也有很多代表不同族群的平民百姓。

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE5VItMZJ6Y&feature=player_embedded

將來的歷史學家只要把這些照片放在一起,便能看清兩場選舉的本質。在台灣的雙英戰競選照中,我們看到台灣的未來;在香港的雙英戰站台照裏,我們卻只看到香港的過去。

(作者按語:真是A picture paints a thousand words。編輯時,聽到電台的一個音樂節目,叫人千萬不要變成一杯半冷不熱、最終漸漸變冷的溫水;感覺中,對於我們這些前朝遺少而言,香港的確越來越像這麽一杯溫吞水!)

08 December, 2011

“Why Democracy can be good for Governance?”

(Luncheon Talk delivered at the Y’smen Club at Club Lusitano, Central, 1 December, 2011)

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am most grateful for this opportunity to speak to you on a topic of utmost importance. I’ve been thinking on it for quite a long time since the days when I was a junior AO at government.

I was told recently that these days, not that many people watched TVB’s evening soap operas; because they’re more interested in the PR shows of Henry Tang and CY Leung. The heated election campaign, seasoned with occasional scandals and exchange of bitter remarks, has been very entertaining indeed. But, in my humble opinion, it’s not likely to make long-term impact on Hong Kong.

For whoever gets elected, he -- supposing Regina Ip is not joining the race -- is to be subject to Hong Kong’s bizarre political system. He’ll be a prisoner of the system, regardless of his personal ability and personality traits.

And this political system, in one word, is unsustainable. We often talk about “governance”. But such a system makes Hong Kong ungovernable. Here I’m going to share the essential aspects that make up this unsustainable system.

The first concerns the so-called “executive-led” government. We hear this term repeated by so many and most Hong Kong people do expect to see a strong government with direction and leadership like in the colonial days. That is however an illusion; because in practice our constitutional design is based on the principle of separation of powers. The Basic Law prescribes that the executive, legislative and judiciary each shall have their own functions and sources of powers, doing their own work. For example, no legislators can simultaneously become a public servant; he must resign if he wishes to take up a government post.

Separation of power is not a bad thing; in fact it is a very good idea. The idea is to achieve check and balance in order to guard against the abuse of power that has ruined so many countries in history. In the words of Mr. James Madison, the father of the US Constitution – which is also based on this concept -- only ambition can be made to counteract ambition. This is the only way to ensure a government that does not threaten but safeguards people’s liberties.

Problem arises, however, if you expect such a system to create an “executive-led” government. I find it so interesting that people talk about improving executive-legislative relationship. This is bizarre because the system is designed to make sure they are not on friendly relationship! When I was a junior AO, I had to monitor LegCo meeting when our policy secretaries were summoned for motion debate or answering legislators’ questions. They wanted to make sure they finished their dinner in time to attend the meeting. Although they might not appear to have a great deal of respect for the intellectual capacity of legislators, I could see there’s fear deep inside their mind; for legislators hold the power to sanction their actions.

Secondly, to make things worse, the executive branch suffers from the lack of mandate to govern. I’ll call this a deficit in legitimacy in its competition with the LegCo. I’ve had a debate with a serving government official on this point. He believes that this is only a picture painted by the pan-democrats; there’s no evidence to suggest that the majority of Hong Kong people think that way.

However, it doesn’t matter whether people think of such academic jargon like “legitimacy”. Important is the fact that the executive branch it’s not elected and therefore has no legitimate claim to representing the voices and interests of the people. To be sure, all politicians claim that they represent all the people – take note of CY Leung’s latest ambition to iron out a policy platform for seven million Hong Kong people. But without popular election of the top leadership of the executive branch, i.e. the Chief Executive, there’s no way you can make up for the deficit in legitimacy.

This is not an academic issue. The legitimacy deficit translates itself into policy deadlocks on all controversial issues. To understand this, we need to bear in mind that all policies come at a price. There’s no free lunch, except the one I’m having today. A policy issue is controversial because it harms the interest of somebody and benefits somebody else. Or it can be controversial because it hurts you in the short run but benefit you in the long run. These are hard choices. The whole point of having election to produce a government is to let the people make the hard choice themselves, or authorise somebody to make the choices for them.

Look at Greece. They’re battling with a huge deficit. The choice is about going bankrupt and brings the country down forever into disrepute, or accept European Union’s austerity package, work hard, spend less, and repay the debt. Their Prime Minister was clever enough in calling for a referendum earlier. Why? Because that eventually put the responsibility back on the people.

In Hong Kong, we don’t have that – be it referendum or universal suffrage. The result is irresponsible politics for the last decade. Good politicians are those who help aggregate and articulate the choices of people on these problems. Bad politicians are those who tell you that you don’t have to choose and can have them all. They make good novel writers, not statesmen.

You don’t need me to remind you of real-world examples. We’ve been debating on our retirement system for years. Some people ask for revision to the MPF; some people demand its abolition altogether. Let the government pay, they say. This is okay on one single policy because we still have huge reserve to back up. But it’s not okay if we’re doing the same thing on all policies.

So you have elected legislators who have the popular mandate to check on the government, but cannot make governing decisions themselves. And you have a government who has the power and responsibility to take charge of the governing agenda, but not the mandate to govern. The result is guaranteed mutual frustration and policy deadlock.

We don’t see ground-breaking movement in any area. Shall we support our industry or not? Shall we continue to rely just on real estate development for tax revenue and economic growth? Shall we rethink about the linked exchange rate system? Shall we intervene in the housing market and if so, to what extent? Shall we provide more or less social security to the underprivileged? Shall we lay this rail, build this bridge or pave that airport runway?

We’ve discussed these issues for too long because there’s no general election through which people may make the tough choices, and make their choices clear to politicians and to themselves. The result is deadlock. In deadlock, you can only do piecemeal and short-term refinement to please the crowd – and that’s why you got the $6,000 checks. It makes everybody happy, but doesn’t get any long-term problem solved.

Now I bet that whoever comes into the office next summer will face the same deadlock. You might say, isn’t Mr. Leung a stronger personality and of, arguably, higher intelligence? But politics is not just about mere intelligence, for otherwise university professors would make good politicians. Nor is it just about strong will power, especially in a modern city with interests so diverse.

Mr. Leung pledges that his agenda is for seven million people and he’s pro-business and at the same time pro-grassroots. For rhetoric, this is wonderful; for execution, no. The ability to form a viable overall governing agenda is important. And there is invariably give and take. The ability to barter amongst conflicting interests and persuade them to accept something in common is important. For this to happen, some competence in persuasion is necessary -- and well, you might say, Mr. Henry Tang falls short of this. But eventually, a system that allows such consensus to happen is most critical, and this is absent in Hong Kong.

Finally, there’s the problem of finding the actual persons to fill public offices. Here our system is ridiculous, to put it mildly. It denies any proper role for political parties in modern politics. The CE cannot have any party affiliation, at least not openly and formally. Stripped of this, he can only turn to kinship or personal friendship.

This is bad on two accounts. First, there’s no way for him to win party support on difficult decisions and work out the give-and-take in controversial policy tradeoffs. He cannot govern on a comprehensive policy agenda. He has to work out deals with all parties in each and every single incidence. This is pure madness in terms of administrative efficiency and that’s partly the reason why so many young AOs quit their jobs!

Second, such a team – if a team at all – is bound to be amateurish. Most of the people selected may only have passing experience in politics or public administration. They don’t necessarily know each other. They probably have never worked together. I cannot envisage why we can be so emphatic on teamwork when applying for a job in business world and be so complacent when it comes to government, when the sheer complexity and volume of work is much bigger!

We’ll soon face this problem of forming a new governing cabinet in a year’s time. By then, I bet that any combination will be subject to intense public scrutiny and critique as ever. The root of the problem is again because of the legitimacy deficit of the CE. If he doesn’t have the mandate to execute his programme, so is his team. And the fact that his team is temporarily recruited and hastily assembled for the job only makes things worse.

I have written in much greater details in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on the above observations. I hope I’ve given you a quick sketch here. That it’s not just about personal qualities – let alone personal marital or extra-marital affairs -- but the inherent defects in our system.

Thank you.

END