香港新浪網 MySinaBlog
劉廼強 | 25th Aug 2009 | China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) | (15 Reads)

While it is laudable that our Environmental Protection Bureau should take the initiative to promote electric cars, it is somewhat regrettable that it chose vehicles made in Japan, instead of better vehicles produced just across the Shenzhen River.

I say this not because I am a nationalist zealot who will opt for home-made products regardless of quality or price, or that I discriminate against Japanese products. I am disappointed that our officials have turned a blind eye to cheaper and better electric cars made by BYD in neighboring Shenzhen. Warren Buffett invested a big chunk in this company. I took a tour of their factory recently and came away thinking the amazing Warren Buffett has done it again in picking the right bet.

The Japanese hybrids are basically conventional cars equipped with batteries charged by a gasoline engine. BYD technology is one step ahead: it produces a fully chargeable electric car with a conventional gas engine as back-up. BYD therefore is closer to full-scale production of electric cars. The conversion is seamless.

The heart of an electric car is its battery. The Japanese and most other manufacturers have adopted the conventional lithium-based battery, which, in mobile telephones, is prone to blow up in collisions or under sudden impact. BYD has developed a much safer iron battery with material that is cheaper and more readily available. The end result is a much cheaper and safer car. In test drives, it is a bit noisy and bumpy, but those drawbacks can easily be remedied and will not enter into the operation of premium models.

Our officials may explain that Japanese cars are made to be driven on the same side of the road as in Hong Kong. But I am sure if we place a batch order, BYD, in the tradition of Chinese manufacturers, will easily supply us with a right-wheel drive model.

The only reason our officials looked elsewhere was their inability to reckon with the fact that many made-in-China products can be as good as the foreign competition, if not better.

With such prejudice on our part, what will people in Shenzhen think? What are the prospects of our integration into the Pearl River Delta regional economy?

While it is not too late to switch, shall we perhaps, at least, adopt a good neighbour approach and try out some home-made electric cars here?


劉廼強 | 25th Aug 2009 | 信報 | (18 Reads)

李嘉誠不愧是商界中公認政治IQ第一。所謂「行家一出手,便知有沒有」,最近他一句未來特首的條件,需要「兩任」:信任和勝任。這句話表面看來,平平無奇,但其實言簡意駭,一語中的!

香港的特首,說到底只是個一方之首,根據《基本法》規定,他要同時向中央和市民負責。信任也者,是來自中央;而勝任,則是能否提供良好管治,面對的是香港市民。二者也有先後之分,首先是中央的信任,這才贏得實質性的委任,才有機會坐上特首的位置,發揮他勝任的能力。

實質性任命非否決權

香港有些人不是不明白信任這必要條件,而是拒絕接受中央這一權力,千方百計想把中央架空。在中英談判期間,據說中央就堅持有實質性委任權這問題,艱苦地談判了很久,最後英方不得不讓步。但是我們的反對派「法律權威」們,有些至今仍堅持實質性委任也者,就是行使否決權:市民選出來的特首,你如不接受的話,否決他便是。

要知道一旦這情況發生,便等於中央正面與香港民意為敵,置中央於反民主的位置,對中央的形象十分不利。而且這政治危機肯定會在香港社會之間造成很大的震盪,對香港的繁榮和穩定造成極大的傷害。所以否決權這一着,有如核彈一樣,只能於萬不得已,甚至同歸於盡的最極端情況之下的最後選擇;只能起阻嚇作用,避免出現不能控制的局面出現。所以很明顯,所謂實質性任命,絕對不是等同否決權。

這亦即是說,中央要在提名的過程當中,便要肯定每一個候選人都是她能接受的。怎樣達到這一必要的效果,需要我們發揮最大的智慧去解決。但是不管最後具體的做法如何,在《基本法》的框架之下,某種篩選和過濾的機制是免不了的。

內地的基層選舉也有毋須提名,自己站出來就是候選人,絕無篩選和過濾機制的「海選」;但這只可能在基層選舉中出現。事實上,縱觀世界各地,所有較大規模、較高層次的選舉,都一定有某種篩選和過濾機制,絕對沒有可能人人都隨便做候選人的。反對派嚷了一回,便知道理說不過去,於是再也少提篩選和過濾,轉而提一定要有真正的選擇。他們洋洋自得的新口號是「有得揀,至喺老板」。這一白痴提法,並不比以前聰明,我上周已經批過了,不贅。

市民對曾蔭權認識不足

其實說白了,這口號的意思是,你可以有篩選和過濾機制,但不能太緊。二○○七年的選舉,梁家傑也能當上候選人,這便成了一個先例。在今後的選舉,我們要梁家傑或類似梁家傑的人,都依舊能出線當候選人,讓市民「有得揀」。簡而言之,任何疑似梁家傑的東西,不管怎樣,都一定要做「百搭」。這樣的話,毋須遮遮掩掩,不如乾脆要求留一個候選人的席位給公民黨好了。

好了,留一個位給公民黨,又留不留一個給社民連呢?那麼民主黨呢?職工盟呢?…到頭來,不就是把篩選和過濾權,白給了各政黨而已。每一個小政黨,同樣是小圈子而已;過去經驗證明,它們行事作風最不民主、最不透明,最沒有監督和制衡。而且如果買一家公司,然後自稱是政黨,便自動有提名權的話,我可以擔保,明天會有一百個政黨出現。把提名權交給這些市民認受奇低的政黨和政客,首先市民一萬個不放心,更不要說會否得到中央的信任了。

說到勝任,那就更難評估。以梁家傑為例,他以前跟政治,甚至民主從未扯上關係;我們只知道他大律師一個,在二○○三年大遊行被捧紅。之後聽他和他的助選團,大灑金錢自吹自擂,並且看他在電視台一兩次辯論,選民憑什麼作出非常重大、影響香港五年發展的決策,投下神聖的一票?

我以上的論點,許多方面都同樣可以應用在曾蔭權身上。事實上,表面看來,市民好像對曾蔭權認識多一些,但是從他最近許多做法和市面的負面反應,看來我們在二○○七年對他的認識還是很不足夠,大跌眼鏡。

總統式直選品質難保證

我想表達的意思是,總統式的直選,從來都難以有品質保證。天真的民主派往往會說:「他不好,下回不選他就是。」首先,下回已經是幾年後的事情,這幾年很可能造成很大的破壞,期間人民會痛苦不堪。其次,連陳水扁和小布殊都能成功連任,便知一旦公權在手,不論正招邪招,連任的機會很大、很大。

更可笑的是,最近連一些親建制的政客在扮民主派之餘,更刻意表演其天真爛漫,竟然說將來不管選出誰,中央都會接受。大不了是反對派執政五年,做得不好,五年之後自然會換人。如果我是北京的「開明派」決策者,本來都有意放寬一些,一聽見連親建制的大員都如此水平,我都會加倍擔心普選特首的結果,要求加緊把關。我經常說,一些自以為民主的人,往往給民主化幫倒忙,就是這個道理,例子多的是。

從另一個角度看,信任是德的問題,勝任是才的問題。德才兼備的人,從來都不多,而香港過去幾十年的政治生態中,德才兼備的政治人才,更加稀有。而這稀有的當中,灰心退出的、老去、死去的更不少,今天已經只能是「蜀中無大將,廖化作先鋒」。放眼望去,往後十多二十年,都出不了什麼頂尖的治港人才。「兩任」之說,有如鑽石取血,終不可得。

我們時常說香港有制度優勢,但是制度始終是要人來駕馭的。庸手始終下不了好棋,這是沒辦法的;好的制度落在庸手多年,結果是一天一天的敗壞。庸手開好車,都已經不妙;庸手駕駛破車,更加不堪設想。再過十年,恐怕連今天我們引以自豪的好制度都沒有了。

治好香港不需太高管治力

但是另一方面,信任和勝任是有關連的。中央所不信任的人,不管他在能力上如何勝任,他如得不到中央的支持和合作,始終不可能真正勝任,把香港治理好。要治好香港,下屆我們需要不怕無謂的爭議,不會和稀泥,敢於任事,敢於做醜人的特首,這並不需要太高的管治能力。

魚與熊掌,在信任和勝任不能兼得的情況之下,從現實出發,我寧取能得到中央的信任和支持的人當特首。因為只有得到中央深厚的信任和支持,這個特首才會不怕無謂的爭議,不會和稀泥,敢於任事,敢於做醜人,這便等於勝任了一半。其餘一半,大概可以「三個臭皮匠,勝過一個諸葛亮」的方法,通過集體智慧、團隊合作,和良好制度去解決。過去我們太重個人,不重問責團隊的素質和默契;阿斗帶着二十多個臭皮匠,向着五十多個方向作招架和躲閃,終有一天會被攻陷。


劉廼強 | 21st Aug 2009 | SCMP | (16 Reads)

Show me 100 flaws in the government's pilot drug-testing scheme for schools, and they would not be enough to shoot it down. Pilot schemes are just that: they are meant to be amended and improved upon as they go along.

And, in drug-testing trials, there is nothing that cannot be corrected at minimum cost and short notice. This is no complicated six-sigma quality-control exercise - we do not have to do it right the first time, with no mistakes. Don't waste time. Let's move on and take a look at the real problems.

With the recent rapid increase in juvenile drug use and prostitution, our media have misled the population into classifying these as student problems. When a young person kills himself or herself, our newspapers invariably headline it as: Student commits suicide. If this were the case, the solution would lie in schools. These are, in fact, youth problems, not student problems, and we are barking up the wrong tree.

Schools are designed to be educational institutions, and our principals and teachers are already overburdened performing this important function. We are assigning more and more functions to schools, which are not equipped to perform them well even if we were to allocate more resources.

Hong Kong's international schools carry out drug tests as a screening procedure, and students who violate the rules risk expulsion. But it is a means of avoiding the problem, not solving it. As our mainstream schools cannot kick out such students, the success or otherwise of international schools is not applicable here. What do we do with our own students who test positive? Hand them all over to the police?

Without a comprehensive package, simple drug testing is practically useless.

During his election campaign and in his first policy address after re-election, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen promised to place more emphasis on the family, to solve social problems. It seems reasonable to expect families to do more to deal with their children's problems. So why does Mr Tsang leave the family out in this particular instance? Simple: as I have argued with our chief executive before, the approach does not work. Hong Kong people work extra-long hours, with both parents typically putting in 50-hour weeks. Rampant youth problems and neglected children are symptoms of families in distress.

Instead of providing them with the necessary relief, our government turns a blind eye to their problems, expecting them to shoulder the additional responsibility of solving what are social problems. This is downright wishful thinking.

Such problems are surfacing one by one. We cannot pin them all on the family unit or at the school level. It seems our government can do little more than air slick television commercials featuring drug-taking movie stars urging their peers not to take drugs, organise some carnival-type activities and break some records to make the news. Their message: Don't blame us, we are doing something about it.

Youth problems in general are reflections of the problems of society at large. So, too, are family problems, as I have outlined. An outwardly rich society like Hong Kong, where most of the wealth is in fact concentrated in a few hands, is not healthy.

Parents in Hong Kong have a hard time not neglecting their children while making ends meet. And what do their children get? Even the cream of university graduates can expect to start on monthly salaries below HK$10,000, while a new flat costs well over HK$5 million.

It is obvious that, on their own, our children are finding it ever harder to afford their own flat or get married. Social mobility is low, which means less hope. I would probably take drugs if I were 16. It is an SOS signal. Apparently, we haven't got the message.


劉廼強 | 20th Aug 2009 | China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) | (149 Reads)

Recently on my way to Dunhuang, the Gansu city of caved Buddha fame, I was fascinated by what must be the largest wind farm on earth. These magnificent modern windmill arrays gently churned along both sides of the highway for miles forging a beautiful and highly unforgettable sight. Local officials later confirmed that this is the largest wind farm on earth, and it is situated in the city of Yumen, the first oil field in modern China. Its current capacity is 420,000 kilowatts, to be expanded by the year-end to 1 million kilowatts and ultimately to 10 million.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Projects of similar size are now being commissioned in six clusters all over North China, and one along the coast of Zhejiang, with a total planned capacity approaching 120 million kilowatts. These wind farms have to be huge to meet the economic and stability requirements to join the national power grid. Wind energy is now part and parcel of the Chinese national power supply system.

Wind energy is only part of the story. China is now leading the world in clean coal power plants, nuclear plant technology and is also the largest manufacturer of solar voltaic cells. The government has already earmarked 3 trillion yuan ($440 billion) until 2020 for the development of new energy. Compare this figure with the Obama-Biden platform pledge (that is, still words) of $150 billion in the coming decade to make new energy the next growth engine for the US economy, and one can appreciate the determination of the Chinese government in this direction.

By 2020, new energy is expected to constitute 17 percent of the country’s power supply — to the tune of 290 million kilowatts. Of this, 86 million kilowatts will come from nuclear power, 150 million from wind, 20 million from solar power, and 30 million from bio-energy. With such a gigantic commitment, China will no doubt become the world leader in new energy in the coming decade.

New energy is an important component of the now popular low carbon economy. Another equally important component is transportation. In the 11th Five-Year Plan starting 2006, rail transportation has been designated as the major mode for the country, with a total investment of 1.25 trillion yuan in the five-year period. By 2020, there will be 120,000 km of railways crisscrossing the country, of which 16,000 km will be high-speed passenger railway handling trains of over 200 km per hour. In the aftermath of the international financial crisis, investment in rail transportation has been greatly accelerated. A total of 3.5 trillion yuan has been allocated for the next three years — a six-fold increase, and which can never happen in any other country. New figures are yet to be released, but the rate of transformation towards a much lower emission mode of transportation is obviously accelerated.

Even in terms of conventional cars, BYD, a Shenzhen car manufacturer in which Warren Buffett has a stake, is leading the world in hybrid technology. While other cars in the market are oil first and battery second as a back-up, the BYD hybrid is one step ahead. It is a fully chargeable electric car with oil as back-up. Besides, other hybrids use conventional lithium-based batteries which will explode on impact, but BYD has developed an iron battery which is much safer, and uses more readily available and cheaper material. Needless to say, it will be very simple for BYD to switch its production line to electric cars once peripheral facilities such as charging stations are in place. Unlike other industrialized countries, the oil and auto industry’s vested interests are not that powerful, and the auto economy is still in embryonic form. Like Warren Buffett, I am more optimistic about the popularization of electric cars in China.

Another buzz in the now fashionable low carbon economy is “carbon capture and storage technology”. The Western countries have developed this expensive technology, which they themselves cannot afford and are eager to push it to China. The world’s most efficient carbon capture and storage mechanism is photosynthesis through green vegetation. Since 2000 China has been the only developing country that manages to consistently increase its forest coverage. Starting from 16.6 percent in 2000, it is expected to reach 20 percent in 2010, an amazing feat by any account. China is also leading the world in reclaiming farmland from deserts and soil erosion, at a rate of about 3,000 sq km per year — an area larger than Luxembourg. An increasing amount of carbon is being captured and stored this old-fashioned way.

Strictly speaking, per capita wise, China is a low carbon emitting country — less than one-fifth of the Americans — although its total emission is very high in the world. From China’s point of view, water pollution is of a higher priority, because the threats are clear and immediate. As a developing country, China is not subject to any emission target. However, in the current 11th Five-Year Plan, the government has earmarked 500 billion yuan to treat air contamination. The growth rate of greenhouse gases emission has fallen significantly, to 1.5 percent yearly. Starting July 2007, the country stopped all production and importation of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide, three years ahead of the Montreal Protocol 2010 deadline for developing countries.

Having committed so much on a low carbon economy, China can now take the moral high ground at the Copenhagen Summit to extract more concessions from industrialized countries for the common good.


劉廼強 | 19th Aug 2009 | China Daily (Hong Kong Edition) | (26 Reads)

Is being a public servant just a well paid job? In Hong Kong, it is.

Ever since the handover, it seems all our civil service cares about is salary. Unlike their counterparts elsewhere in the world, the salary level of our officials is protected by the Basic Law.

But during the last five-year-long recession, when we faced consecutive budget deficits and reserves were dwindling, they resisted salary cuts and worried about their pensions. Needless to say, when the economy rebounded, they were among the first to cry for a pay raise.

Since September last year, Hong Kong has been heading towards another recession. Following examples elsewhere, the Chief Executive announced a small pay cut for himself and other officials. The rest of the civil service resisted following suit and the police even threatened to take to the streets, pressing the government for a separate pay scale. They later softened their stance, awaiting the outcome of the grade structure review in November. Meanwhile, other disciplined forces joined together to negotiate with the government for treatment similar to that given to the police.

We can envisage that once the police have their way, other disciplined forces will follow.

When all disciplined forces come together and the government yields, it is reasonable for all administrative and clerical staff of the disciplined forces to ask for a raise. The final result will be across-the-board pay raises to each and every person working for the government.

As our economy has just come out of recession with 3.3 percent growth and government revenue is expected to increase accordingly, such demands sound all the more “reasonable”.

I am all for people getting a pay raise and have no intention of pitching civil servants against taxpayers. After all, we are all victims of a global recession not of our making.

From the point of view of individual rights and an everyone-for-himself approach, isn’t it also “reasonable” for all citizens to have a bite at the public coffer?

Especially the million or so people now living below the poverty line are well entitled to do so. It is then a matter of which group has a larger crowd and who shouts the loudest.

Is this what we want? What will happen after we have divided up all the public reserves?

I hate to see our government employees, especially our disciplined forces whose responsibility is to protect our property, taking a leading role in this process. It is not good for their public image, to say the least.

With the public interest at heart, I am sure we can work things out. It is up to our top decision makers to come up with a comprehensive pay scheme for our civil servants that is fair and reasonable to all, not just to any one vested interest.


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