Quotation of the Day

12 June, 2012

Towards a Greater Society (expectation on the fourth term of SAR government)

Hong Kong is ailing. We boast ourselves about a great economy; but we have a very crippled polity and a highly segregated society.
Even official statistics admits that more than one-tenth of families are surviving on monthly income of less than $6,000. And it is not just the poorest suffering; mid-level managers and professionals have seen their real salaries diminishing over the last eight years.
The official GDP growth conceals the unjust concentration of wealth in and unsustainable reliance on a few sectors. The high fiscal reserve does not tell the widening chasm and rising tensions between the rich and poor.
All this has cost Hong Kong dearly, bleeding her of harmony and trust, the cornerstone of social capital. It has also resulted in a government low in credibility and authority, a phenomenon further accentuated by suspected corruption of senior officials or collusion with big businesses.
In a month's time, a new Chief Executive will be sworn in. The new administration and all Hong Kong must recognize that such ailments have their roots in a society and political system that are both unjust and mutually reinforcing. Whereas the causes of economic inequality may be of global nature, the lack of its solution can only be explained in local context.
For both the elections to the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council are so designed as to make certain classes and interests over-represented. What's more, the office of the executive falls short in suffrage vis-à-vis the legislature in a system where they vie against each other for popular support.
The net result is the inability to foster consensus for breakthroughs. Consequently, policy deadlocks are seen everywhere, be they developing new industries, new financing models for medicare and pension, new infrastructural projects or mandatory green measures. Such deadlocks have blunted any possible political vision.
Recognizing the duality of our problem, response must be sought in both the socio-economic and political-administrative fronts. On the former, a more egalitarian approach should be adopted in examining our existing policies and exploring overdue reforms. Should we give more respectable pensions to the elderly regardless of their means and abode? Should we segregate the housing market as to provide affordable dwelling for the commons, while not stifling the investment of the more privileged? Is it right to pursue economic development to the benefit of a few, but at the cost of a worsening environment for all? Should cross-sectoral conglomerates be curbed in their powers to reinvigorate the SMEs on which our economic flexibility once depended? Is there room for taxing luxury goods through a just consumption tax? These are but a few areas in need of thoughts.
In the political-administrative aspect, more equitable participation in needed. The election method for the Chief Executive must be hurdle-free as to return a truly democratically elected head of government in 2017 whose legitimacy and platform will go undisputed. The present political appointee system must be revamped to bring in other voices into the administration.
Governing capacity should also be strengthened so that when the political system is ready, the administrative system is armed with the right tools to finish the job. Intra-govermental policy research capability, obviously inadequate at present especially on longer term issues and contingency planning, must be properly enhanced. Furthermore, conventional advisory boards and committees and commissions with executive powers should also be reviewed as to ensure that they serve real purposes other than political dressing.
There is no doubt that these changes will be met with suspicion and opposition. There is no doubt that they will not come without a price. But it is also beyond all doubts that such price must not be paid by giving up our core values in terms of people's liberties and the rule of law. Politics is a balancing art; and here a fine balance must be struck such that the new administration shall neither bend the rules to please the crowd, nor let the rules be abused by vested interests as barriers to necessary change.
For there is nothing more badly needed for Hong Kong than a Greater Society, and this can only be achieved through a more equitable manner in the creation and distribution of wealth, and in the political participation of her citizens.

07 June, 2012

曾蔭權還能為香港做什麼?

一如所料,特首曾蔭權以一貫的機巧、醒目,成功轉移視線,將個人的誠信,變成制度的漏洞;把近三個月的檢討,化為三分鐘的發言:一句感謝、兩份報告、短中長三期落實建議,再來一個閉目抿嘴,也就把自己的糊塗問題難得糊塗一番,交代過去。

公眾對曾先生的個人印象,已無可挽回;可悲是陪葬的,還有政府的威信、公務員的士氣、兩制下香港固有制度的優越性,以及越來越瀰漫社會的政治無力感與犬儒感,讓人失去了對公職人員和公權力的信任。

要求曾先生辭職是不現實的:一、曾氏任期只剩一月;二、新舊政府交替之際,辭職徒然添煩添亂;三、中央政府肯定不容許有第二個特首在任內鞠躬下台。

但是,如果不作出某種懲罰,則無以平息民憤,也無從建立政治問責。較之中外,對比古今,政治人物犯錯,如不是自裁、下台或下獄,自我懲罰以示有所承擔的方法,還有以下幾個:

一、下詔罪己:這方法看似實際懲罰不多,但政治意義最大。曾氏如認真悔改,不但可痛斥己過,為貪念作宗教式懺悔,更可以提升到理論層次,為過去施政造成的豪強橫行、內外失和的局面,深切總結經驗,指出背後的深層次制度問題;如此,不但能絕地反彈,甚至可以為他確立一己的政治遺產,成為一生中最重要的政治宣言。

二、自我放逐:古羅馬時代在權力鬥爭中失勢的政治人物,往往受到放逐;中國古代失職失勢官員也常遭外貶的處分,類近放逐。曾氏離任後不妨考慮。只是,在大部份市民心中,曾氏早已被流放了。

三、自願罰俸:罰俸是我國封建時代懲罰官員的常法。曾氏如不想影響機制上其他環節,又能洗刷一己污名,莫過如自動奉上過去一年近四百萬元的薪酬,或退還庫房以紓民困,或直接捐予慈善機構,或成立一個「民主倡廉基金」,都不錯。不要忘記,香港市民在他離任後還得支付費用提供他作為前任特首的種種禮遇,曾先生的罰俸其實也是幫補一下這些開銷而已。

曾氏上台時既以政治家自許,正好在他政治生涯的最後階段,拿出政治家的勇氣與判斷,也算在離任前為港人做件好事。當然,他能有這樣的魄力嗎?

(蘋果日報6月4日)