Hong Kong is hyper-buzzing on tenterhooks in eager anticipation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s Policy Address tomorrow. The press dutifully encourage the excitement by reporting that it will be a shorter speech than was usual under her sinister and demonic Communist-worshipping predecessor CY Leung. In fact, she has somehow drafted three hours’ worth of vacuous dirge-like blather, but will read out only the Seriously Thrilling parts in a ‘short and sweet’ one-hour version.
Few can recall a time when this annual ritual contained anything that counts as genuine new policy, ideas or (the horror!) reform. We can safely forecast that Carrie will tick off a list of palliative micro-measures designed to give the impression that the government is doing things when in fact it isn’t.
She looks set to propose a cut in profits tax for smaller companies that – if their accountants have half a brain – don’t pay much anyway. She will divert dividend income from the MTR to a transport fare-cut for commuters fortunate enough to live in certain areas (a transfer that is bound to include an element of the poor subsidizing the rich, and is also an example of witless tax hypothecation). And then there is housing. Every post-1997 administration has in practice had a policy of pushing property prices and rents up, up and up. Carrie must leave this policy intact, but as a Big Idea she will offer a token number of relatively affordable homes to a few lucky people in a de-facto lottery or two.
The burning question among the city’s political analysts is: How many times will Carrie mention ‘Belt and Road’ in the policy address? (It will probably appear in conjunction with the newer but similarly incomprehensible buzz-concept-jargon-BS phrase ‘Bay Area’.)
In his 2016 address, CY Leung famously mentioned ‘Belt and Road’ 912 times in the first two sentences alone. Even by Hong Kong pro-Beijing establishment standards, it was a breathtakingly brazen example of obsessive-compulsive shoe-shining shamelessness.
Being subtle, Carrie will calibrate. She obviously will not want to be mocked like CY was for babbling the inanity so repetitively, but she will not dare offend her Beijing overseers by mentioning Chairman Xi Jinping’s visionary initiatives too sparingly.
She will mostly mention ‘Belt and Road’ and ‘Bay Area’ along with the word ‘opportunities’. The intention is to divert and enthuse the disgruntled, as in – don’t worry about unaffordable housing or the erosion of civil rights because Belt and Road Opportunities! She will also refer to them as far-sighted monumental projects that we must embrace as symbols of Taking the Motherland Thing Seriously, through the funding of Belt/Bay scholarships, missions, councils, strategies, studies and strategy-research-scholarships, and other exciting rah-rah Taking Things Seriously Stuff.
The Jockey Club is offering odds of 2-1 that Carrie will mention the magic mantras between 10 and 15 times in her full speech; 4-1 that she will mention them more than 15 times; 10-1 fewer than 10 times.
They are also taking bets on how many new committees, commissions, councils and other pointless talk-shop/advisory bodies she will announce. The consensus is around eight.