Sunday, 21 May 2017

Can Lam Tackle HK's Land Shortage?

David Akers-Jones says Carrie Lam must tackle land shortages firmly
Former chief secretary David Akers-Jones has some advice for incoming chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor -- get tough on tackling Hong Kong's problems, in particular land shortages, describing it as a "shame and disgrace".

Now 90, Akers-Jones was a supporter of Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee during the CE race, but says Lam is "a determined person who has a gentle side to her nature".

While he would not comment on if the civil service produced better leaders than businessmen turned politicians, like Leung Chun-ying who (who he supported), Akers-Jones admits Hong Kong's colonial past was partly to blame for a lack of "clear assumption of responsibility".

He said the colonial civil service took a "positive non-intervention" approach, and left the task of finding solutions to social problems with the private sector.

There are a number of brownfield sites in the New Territories
No wonder the government today has such a laissez-faire approach to what are now very serious social issues, particularly low-income housing, education, and skyrocketing rents.

However, he noted Leung had a more interventionist approach when it came to increased welfare spending.

"I feel Carrie Lam would have to deal with... social problems with a strong hand," he suggested.

Akers-Jones said land supply needed urgent solutions, as it was a "shame" that much of Hong Kong's 1,192 hectares of brownfield sites are now owned by major developers.

"Management of land is a disgrace of the government. When I went to Yuen Long in 1962, it was surrounded by paddy fields... now look at it," he said, referring to where there are a lot of brownfield sites.

"We must reach an amicable agreement between ourselves and the owners of the brownfields, [as] we reached an amicable agreement in the 1960s in the building of new town."

Is Lam CY 2.0 or not? We shall find out in the coming months
That was then, this is now. The issues are more complex, and also residents are more outspoken and concerned about their living environment and of course property values. The stakes are much higher, but the housing problem definitely needs to be tackled.

Other issues Akers-Jones is concerned about including poverty and the ageing population, which he describes as "extremely difficult problems" to be solved.

But he is optimistic Lam will find creative solutions if she and her administration look at problems honestly and listen to the people.

However, from seeing how she performed as chief secretary under Leung, Lam will have to radically change the way she does things to convince us she is really honest about wanting to make Hong Kong better.

Many of us have yet to be convinced she won't be another CY 2.0...

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