Wednesday, October 28, 2015

就《把握'一帶一路'機遇,尋找香港經濟新方向》動議辯論發言

主席,自從中國政府提出「一帶一路」發展戰略,有很多人即刻掛在口邊,不過,我想很多人都不太清楚「一帶一路」的具體行動內容,和香港的定位為何。我早兩個星期出席一個論壇,特別早些到,本來非常期待一位本地經濟學者關於「一帶一路」的簡介,但結果聽到的仍然是非常之「虛」,具體的東西沒法說出來,卻展示了很多「絲綢之路」歷史地圖,我差點以為去了一個歷史學講座。

主席,如果「一帶一路」真的是一個經濟發展的機會和行動計劃,我們就真的要以商業和經濟原則來處理,當中要面對不可避免的地緣政治和國際政治的影響,我們從中如何找到香港的定位,不能當作一個政治測驗,中央提出,必屬佳品,萬眾支持,阿門,就算。

我都有研究「一帶一路」帶來的機會和挑戰。從中國的角度,「一帶一路」讓中國能夠把自己的市場焦點,從13億人口的國內市場,轉向涵蓋44億人、佔全世界63%人口的新市場、經濟規模達21兆美元,即佔世界29%的新市場,而當中除了中亞、南亞、西亞等發展中市場,但同時亦包括已發展的歐洲特別是西歐市場,對中國來說,是對依賴美國市場、過分集中代工製造工業的一個轉向。所以,「一帶一路」以改善亞洲基礎建設和全球經濟為包裝,實質亦包括解決中國內部經濟和社會問題為目的。

的確,中國從清末自強運動,至到鄧小平的改革開放,中國的發展和經濟擴張都是面向海洋,即是太平洋,和對岸的美國為主的市場,「一帶一路」是一個調頭、U-turn,以陸路為主配合印度洋沿海路線,一路向西。

不過,與發展中國家做生意,存在特別多和特別大的風險;「一帶一路」涉及的絲路國家,很多都屬於貪腐嚴重、政權不穩定的高風險、低效率的政府,除了貪污,政權轉得密、缺乏民主政制的和平輪替,次次一有轉變,又要再重新傾過,又要重新拜一次新地主。

事實上,中國過去對發展中國家支援的投資,不少都變成了國際爛尾工程。 「一帶一路」為市場地域下了定義,而同樣是中國政府主導的亞洲基礎設施投資銀行,就是主要的融資提供者,即是,為了創造這個新市場,很大程度連錢都要出埋。別說那些中亞等發展中國家,連英國都要中國帶錢去買入他們的市場啦。

所以,「一帶一路」的風險,加上中國政府過去以「大包攬」形式做事,恐怕中國政府最後都係要自己找數。以亞投行和「一帶一路」的方向,把外國政府拉埋落水,很可能亦是中國政府看到自己過往這些投資風險失控的問題,嘗試去改善現時的狀況。即使國家策略肯面對這些風險,我們香港如果自處,幫助改善這些問題,和避免我們不能承受的風險?

一個商業計劃business plan已經定出了市場需求,點可以沒有具體執行方案,無的話點會有投資者肯去投資?就算知道我們要向西發展,我們賣些什麼產品或者服務?就算講得出那些地方,我們香港是否了解這些國家需要什麼?就算我們講得出金融、物流、專業服務、創新科技等行業,具實做什麼?這是我們必須短期面對的經濟和政策問題,有什麼地方需要政府政策便利才可成事?

香港已經失去了傳統工業,令我們社會的經濟發展彈性盡失,政府即使現在開始講再工業化,具體在土地、投資、稅務便利方面會做什麼,仍然唔清唔楚。當然,個別行業,包括我比較熟悉的電訊業,其實過去已經開始將香港的科技和管理經驗,出口去中亞洲國家,早已經行緊這條「一帶一路」,未來可以怎樣發展得更多完化、深化、強化?

主席,美國等十多國家在十月初宣佈的《誇太平洋夥伴關係協定》(TPP),中國和香港無簽。TPP內容在市場進入多方面簽訂便利措施,有法可依,和「一帶一路」相比,的確比較具體。兩者當然不同,也不需要一樣,但中國和香港都不在TPP之內。撇開政治因素,在商言商,對香港來說,有利可圖的話,其實兩個計劃都必須正視、參與。

不過,香港政府過去對「一帶一路」講就講多了,但對大部分商界,其實沒有具體計劃,連亞投行我們可以如何參與,都未搞等清楚;而對TPP,就更加是後知後覺,現在能否在下一輪加入呢?政治上很可能中國仍然有一段時間才可能加入TPP,香港要帶頭兩邊都爭取參與,不可以等中國都入埋,我們才又一次發現,自己落後於人。

謹此陳辭,多謝主席。

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Letter to Hong Kong – Coding Sunday

Last Sunday, I did something that I haven't done for almost twenty years. I coded.

Yes, I studied electrical and computer engineering thirty years ago in university. My first programming language was PASCAL.  My first job was as a software engineer writing codes in assembler languages. But the last time I did coding was some web pages using HTML about twenty years ago.

Today, when coding for children has become a global trend, it occurred to me that I should get a feel of what learning to code was all about for our next generation. So last Sunday, I invited a group of ten Form One students to participate in our little Coding Sunday.

First of all, why Form One students? From what IT teachers told me, Form One students, just entering secondary schools from primary schools with varying backgrounds in computer knowledge or training, are at a particularly important crossroad as far as being exposed to information and communications technologies, or ICT, is concerned. Because they came in from different primary schools, it made the jobs of the teachers much harder in order to cater to their different levels of previous exposure.

So, for our Coding Sunday, we first wanted to test the reaction of these youngsters being exposed to the internal source codes of computer programs. And indeed, we found that most of the group we gathered had no previous exposure to source codes, although a few had played with logical game building blocks such as Minecraft before. But to my pleasant surprise, our youngsters just jumped right into it and had no apprehension about tackling these relatively dry, and logical internal codes.

We let our youngsters try out with their first HTML program, with their first "if-then" logical statement, and told them the importance of not missing any semi-colon or parenthesis. Then we went on to let them change the Javascript codes of a Super Mario game. By changing the parameters they could make Mario run faster or slower, or jump higher with a lower gravity factor, and so on.

Our little exercise showed me that young children really had fun with coding, and we had no problem with keeping their attention. They kept blasting our volunteer teacher with questions. Instead, it was the adults like me who lacked focus and attention, and couldn't stop posting stuffs on to Facebook and Instagram. The only thing we could beat the kids was being able to type faster on the keyboard, probably because we have bigger hands!

In the afternoon we let the youngster try a popular tablet-based coding tool that control some cute little robots called Dash and Dot. The kids had even more fun with that. And it dawned on me what the difference was, between how I learned coding in my days and today may be. When I learned to code thirty years ago, a computer program was a long thousands of lines of abstract codes made up of variables and syntaxes that we put into something called a compiler to make it run as an executable, and by putting some input data into it, we get some output, yet more data, information, and numbers. We learned logic and logical thinking the abstract and hard way.

Today, young people are already exposed to all the electronic gadgets and games from an infant age. They know how these devices work already, and now we are just telling them the inside nuts and bolts that make these things run as they do. They can learn from the outside in.

Understanding these differences hopefully can allow us to think of better ways and more intelligent policies to help train the logical thinking and digital literacy of our next generation, so as to equip them to be more competitive in the cyber world where they live in.

A few hours of coding class may not mean much to these young people, but the experience has meant a lot to me – in understanding the importance and the challenges our educators face in trying to improve teaching coding in schools.

As a matter of fact, as our government and society are pondering how to build Hong Kong as a smart city, and how to create more opportunities by supporting innovation and technology, the lack of ICT manpower is our most critical bottleneck.

Where did our ICT education go wrong? There are inconsistencies in the level of readiness in hardware, software, network speeds, IT support and teachers’ abilities among schools, but those may not be the biggest problems. Researches have shown consistently that our ICT curriculums in schools are outdated and disjointed, between primary, junior secondary and higher secondary levels. And then, there is the lack of class time for ICT mainly due to the new secondary school public examination system, DSE. Even students interested in ICT may run out of the two electives they can choose to include ICT, and many schools end up cutting ICT as an offered elective. As a result, between 2012 and 2014, the number of students taking the ICT subject in the DSE exam has dropped a further 10%. Even for those taking ICT for DSE, the proportion of coding within that syllabus is still far too low, at only about twenty hours.

While the Hong Kong government has started an ICT enrichment pilot program to enhance the ICT curriculum, it covers only a meager eight secondary schools out of more than a thousand primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, for only 30 students for each of those eight schools from Form Two. In the meantime, our competitor cities have started to put coding as mandatory in schools. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a deadline of ten years for all primary and secondary schools to offer computer science to all primary and secondary school students. Most of the planned 81 million USD investment will be for teachers training. The San Francisco Board of Education voted in June to offer computer classes from pre-kindergarten to high school, and even made it mandatory through to the eighth grade.

It is important for Hong Kong to catch up in this regard, especially as our birth rates continue to remain low and our local manpower supply continues to be at a crunch. We must make the best of our talents. On the other hand, it is also important to create equal opportunities for children from all backgrounds and all levels of society, to equip them to be equally competitive for the future world.

That’s why I am proposing a thorough review of STEM education in Hong Kong --  that is, for science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to give it the proper weight and importance in schools and universities, as our society and indeed the world transform to a brave new technology centric economy of the future. Within ten years, coding must be put in to the curriculums of all schools, and I believe it should be even mandatory up to the junior secondary school level. As an interim measure before we get to that point, subsidies should be made available to needy families so that private coding classes can be accessible to their children as well.

Coding for all doesn’t mean all students will become programmers by profession when they grow up. But believe me basic knowledge of the logic of coding, and the functioning of computers and algorithms will be basic skills for our next generation of knowledge workers and achievers, no less important than language and arithmetic. It will be the best investment that we can make, for our people and for Hong Kong's future economic development.

Friday, October 16, 2015

就聯合提出根據《立法會(權力及特權)條例》動議調查食水含鉛的議案發言

主席,今日出現兩個措辭相近的特權法議案,要求成立委員會調查鉛水事件。議案出現雙胞胎,但今天的焦點並不在此,不論這條議案出了多少胞胎也罷,都只會是泛民議員動議,方向也十分一致和清晰。

而記憶所及,建制派動議以權力及特權調查也是為了打擊政敵,而非監察政府,亦非為了市民福祉,以往建制派都責難泛民將事件政治化,但今次最應該急市民所急的時候,由公屋到私樓,由私樓到學校,甚至包括幼稚園,都相繼失守,建制派竟然竭力為這宗醜聞掩飾,在不同的社區發表宣稱安全的驗水報告來對沖,頂多就是做些不痕不癢的請願,但事實上也是放軟手腳,沒有盡力追究責任。

在上星期的特別內會上,吳亮星議員竟然會認真問飲鉛水會否延年益壽。我真的佩服高局長身為醫生的專業態度,對著這些咁趣致嘅問題,仍可以科學角度來認真解答而忍著不笑。其實在鉛水事件爆發之後,網上都流傳了不少科普文章,從歷史當中舉證,鉛這種重金屬對人類文明的影響,例如古羅馬人的水管、器皿和飲食當中含鉛,令管治精英患病,間接招至古羅馬衰落。雖然這個說法仍需古歷史學家考證,但以我們現代人的標準,食水根本不應該含鉛。

另外亦有研究指出,日本江戶時代武士階層盛行含鉛的美白粉。久而久之武士和他們的家眷都因而吸收過量的鉛而損害健康,更禍延下一代。經化驗武士家庭的遺骨得知,部份武士兒童骨骼變形增生,臂骨和腿骨X光檢查出現的條紋,是每0.1公升血液含鉛量超過70微克才會有。這遠遠高於現時科學界訂出10微克鉛中毒水平,若人血液鉛含量高於10微克,足以導致智障、學習困難、聽力受損、過度活躍和反社會行為等問題。同期的武士孩子,長大後都極可能有嚴重智障,或者發育畸形、殘疾或發育遲緩。原因可能歸究於初生嬰兒時期攝取含鉛的母乳所致。由於深受鉛毒影響智力和健康,因此可能幕府的武士階層難以處理政治問題而倒台。

但主席,香港現在鉛水事件卻非影響這些精英階層,而是由基層市民開始,但亦已經漫延到社會上的各個階層,不論貧富也有機會身受其害,但在香港這個反智的社會,即使管治階層的智力如何受影響,也難以動搖他們的管治地位。除了官官相衛,司長未審先判已經話政府無人要負責,涉事的承建商也沒有負上太多責任,懲罰簡直是象徵式得十分過份。

上星期,有報導指房委會招標小組委員會將開會,商討進一步懲處4個負責興建鉛水屋邨的總承建商。內容提及委員會計劃按照各承建商負責的鉛水屋邨數目,禁止他們投標房署工程的時間,即興建一個鉛水屋邨,就罰暫停投標一個月。11條公共屋邨驗出食水含鉛量超標,4個涉事總承建商包括中國建築、保華、瑞安及有利。

房委會招標小組早前已決定抽起涉事承建商過去7個月提交的新建工程標書,但具體罰停投標時間仍未達成共識,月中會再討論。若按此懲處方案,有利要罰暫停投標6個月、中建及保華就各罰停投標2個月,瑞安只有一個屋邨驗到有鉛水,就罰暫停投標1個月。

當局的理據是甚麼呢?原來是因為涉事這4間承建商是行內龍頭公司,懲處要衡量不影響公屋建屋量。但問題是罰「停賽」幾個月,對這些龍頭有甚麼影響呢?是否因為他們夠大,承辦的工程夠多,就可以有恃無恐呢?現在確是越大就越可以有恃無恐!即使建屋需要人手是無可厚非,但只罰「停賽」又是不是有效的懲罰方式呢?當局會否在停賽期間減少招標,最終這些「龍頭」都是損失有限,變相罰完好似冇罰過呢?到目前為止,除了那被指名的水喉匠,公眾都未看到有哪個負責人要負上責任。雖然懲處的責任不是落在調查委員會身上,但在「停賽」以外,還有甚麼有力的罰則可以儆效尤?當局有責任去探討更合適的處理方式。

主席,接下來我想講關於房委會的公屋食水質量控制問題檢討委員會的中期檢討報告。

這份中期報告基本上將成因指向焊料含鉛,不過這些焊料是不用送檢的。但是總承建商可以自行採購焊料,而焊料只是對成本影響輕微,沒有包括在向房屋署的付款清單之內,所以這些含鉛焊料就成了漏網之魚。

報告指出,總承建商普遍認為,接駁銅喉的焊料是整個工序中一個微不足道的部份,所以對於焊料對水質的影響認知不足。不過根據相關規例同合約,總承建商都只准使用無鉛級別焊料。由此可見,其實當局同承建商都認知不足,所以兩方面都沒有重視這些物料,不過是否就代表可以不知者不罪為理由,就可以為當局和承建商開脫,只是將涉事的水喉匠推出來負責就可以交差呢?事實上,政府是對投標有要求的,但承辦商「認知不足」,你政府竟然不知,而又無人需要負責。這就是眾多議員和市民認為,我們不得不由立法會利用我們法定權力和功能,以權力及特權調查,問責!

我在聽司長和局長的發言,當中的不少內容都是循環再用的,可能他們會認為,已有三個委員會分別調查鉛水事件已經足夠,又話者查出來的結果都唔會有太大分別。不過從往績所見,每次泛民提出的以權力及特權調查議案被否決,隨之而來的就是相關事件的更多醜聞。不論我在兩年前提出就香港電視不獲發牌調查、至梁振英的UGL事件、高鐵超支等,都會被揭發更多的「大話冚大話」。否決這次以權力及特權調查議案,歷史告訴我們,只是建制派協助政府隱瞞真相。

我當然不希望今次鉛水事件再會爆出甚麼驚人內幕,但食水安全本應是非關政治的事,不論責任於承建商還是政府部門監管不力,市民的健康尤關重要,必須要盡快問責和補救。而我相信以權力及特權所授權的專責委員會,可以中立持平的角度檢視當局和承建商的失責行為。

為了改善政府運作、監管的系統性問題,找出問題,問責和改善,這些公帑是花得值得嘅。香港作為一個世界級、國際先進城市,出現鉛水問題,是個國際笑話,問題已不只是食水問題咁簡單,如果香港市民和全世界見唔到香港政權公正,正面回應、處理、問責,國際社會對香港仲點有信心?以權力及特權法調查事件,最重要及不可缺少的一步,今天,立法會如果否決議案,只會令全世界見到,香港的管治質素、透明度,已經淪落至什麼地步,所以請建制派議員三思,不要一錯再錯。

多謝主席,本人謹此發言支持議案。

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