Critics say lack of attention to city’s woes . . .
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivered her fourth annual policy address last Wednesday to a Legislative Council, which, after a mass resignation, is devoid of all but two opposition legislators. Lam had delayed the address, initially planned for mid-October, to consult with officials in Beijing. Supporters praised the government’s proposed measures to aid business and investment, while critics expressed disappointment over the lack of vision in the face of the COVID-19 and socioeconomic inequality crises. According to a survey, 64 per cent of residents are dissatisfied with the address, giving it the lowest rating (27.2 out of 100) since surveys began in 1999.
Cooperation with Beijing highlighted . . .
Commentators observed that the address pointed toward greater co-ordination with Beijing, especially on the Greater Bay Area (GBA) plan, an initiative spearheaded by Beijing to transform Hong Kong and neighbouring mainland cities into a regional economic powerhouse. Meanwhile, Lam praised the National Security Law (NSL), implemented in July, for “restoring” peace to the city, and announced new measures to enhance patriotic education in schools and enforce loyalty pledges for civil servants. These announcements come as Lam revealed that the government has been forced to pay her salary in cash due to U.S. sanctions over the NSL.
Controversial responses to inequality, affordability . . .
The address included several employment and investment measures linked with the GBA and relief for the tourism sector and creative industries. However, critics noted that few measures would support working-class residents or mend societal rifts worsened by last year’s protests. Despite having C$163.5 billion in fiscal reserves, Lam did not commit to further relief or welfare on top of the existing C$52 billion in stimulus implemented in the spring. In addition to announcing the construction of 316,000 public housing units over the next decade, she doubled down on her controversially expensive Lantau Tomorrow vision land-reclamation project. Hong Kong continues to be one of the world’s most unequal economies and most expensive property markets, with 15 per cent of residents falling under the official poverty line.
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