Retreat and Passive? Hong Kong's social policies under Donald Tsang's administration, 2005-2011

The term of office of Donald Y. K. Tsang, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region, will end in July 2012.  Over the past six years, the government's planning and implementation of social policies have received heavy criticisms from both the political parties and the public.  This has been particularly overwhelming after the release of the 2011/12 budget which angered the public heavily.  The public accused the government for being too passive and irresponsible to take care of the disadvantaged groups.  The social assistance measures introduced by the government are being seen popularly as short-term, piecemeal and unsustainable.  The Hong Kong government's financial reserve in December stood at close to HK$580 billion. It has had seven years of surplus in a row - an increase of more than HK$300 billion from the record low level of 2003-04.  To a certain extent, saving money is a prudent strategy and can keep the government finance healthy, but people suspect the government is not willing to commit itself into the long-term wellbeing of the population.  With such a large amount of monetary reserve, the government still refuses to launch some sustainable policies like a universal pension plan for the ageing population, and conduct structural reforms to the social welfare system.  This paper will give a comprehensive review of the development of social policy in Hong Kong in the past six years under the Tsang administration. Main topics to be covered in this paper are social security, elderly care and housing.  A particular focus will be put on the recent 2011/12 budget as a case study to study the Hong Kong government's mentality in planning and implementing social policy.