[美國總統大選] Editorial What Does Obama’s Reelection Mean for HK?

【明報專訊】AS BARACK OBAMA defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney to win his second term as US president, the international community, which has grown accustomed to Obama over the past four years, heaved a sigh of relief. The uncertainties a victory on Romney’s part would mean are gone.

Four years ago, the American public, impressed by Obama’s call for reform, made him the first African-American president, to whom they entrusted the responsibility of leading America out of an economic depression that reached its nadir under George W Bush. Obama is also the first US president after World War II to win reelection with an unemployment rate as high as 7.9 percent.

Obama held only a slim lead over Romney in the national popular vote. The principal reason, we believe, is that the US economy is still in bad shape. In fact, many agreed with Romney when in his election campaign he violently criticised Obama for his inability to achieve economic revival.

Yet Obama still managed to win a narrow victory. After all, a lot of people believe that it is Bush who is to blame for the nation’s present economic plight, and there can be no quick remedy for the grave problems the US economy has been struggling with since the outbreak of the financial tsunami. The American public has therefore not been harsh with Obama.

Economic considerations aside, Obama is devoted to reform, for which he has come up against strong opposition from the country’s huge bureaucratic system and powerful financial magnates. For instance, after the financial tsunami, he has called for reforming Wall Street, but has met with such strong resistance that his reform programme may come to nothing. Still, despite serious obstacles that thwarted many of his predecessors, he has pushed through his health care reforms. Obama’s image as a reformer must have won him much support.

Against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s present situation, Obama’s reelection is in a way revealing. At the same time, there are also reasons for concern.

What is revealing is that the public will rally round a reformer. Because of his reform efforts, Obama got reelected despite a high unemployment rate and a depressed economy. By returning him to office, the American people have given him his reward. Now there are many matters in urgent need of reform in Hong Kong, but they cannot be reformed all at once, or society will be thrown into chaos. Leung Chun-ying should devote himself to one or two pressing issues, and try his best to tackle them. If his efforts bear fruit, his image as a reformer will be established. The housing issue is of course one of the most pressing challenges facing Hong Kong today. Successful reforms in this area are likely to win Leung the support he needs if he stands for reelection in 2017, when the Chief Executive will be elected by universal suffrage.

At the same time, we are concerned that, with the US continuing to print money to save its own economy, the Hong Kong dollar will continue to depreciate along with the US dollar, creating huge asset bubbles and fuelling the exorbitant rise in home prices. The HKSAR government, therefore, must try to contain the housing bubble by introducing taxation measures to curb demand. And those measures must be maintained steadily and resolutely until the housing problem is eased because of increased supply.

Finally, with the continuing influx of hot money, big “international crocodiles" may have sinister designs on Hong Kong. The government should therefore monitor the situation closely – we cannot afford any negligence in this respect.

明報社評2012.11.08﹕奧巴馬連任 對香港的啟示和警惕

奧巴馬擊敗共和黨的羅姆尼,連任美國總統,對於過去4年習慣了奧巴馬的國際社會,會舒一口氣,因為羅姆尼上場帶來的不明確因素,得以消弭。

4年前,美國人民被奧巴馬的「變革」訴求打動,把拯救美國的責任,交付給歷來首名黑人總統,奧巴馬從喬治布殊接過來的是美國經濟處於谷底的爛攤子。奧巴馬在美國失業率處於7.9%高位,仍然勝選連任,是二次大戰以後第一人。

奧巴馬未能拋離羅姆尼,主要是美國經濟着實不好。在競選中,羅姆尼猛烈批評奧巴馬挽救經濟無方,得到不少共鳴。

奧巴馬最終險勝,主要是不少人認為美國現在的困境,小布殊是始作俑者,而金融海嘯後美國經濟問題之大,並無特效藥可以在短時間奏效,因此,對奧巴馬並未苛責。

除了這些眼前利益,奧巴馬推動改革,面對龐大的官僚體制和財閥霸權,阻力甚大,例如金融海嘯後,他提出整飭華爾街一些流弊,遭到強烈反彈,可能不了了之;儘管阻力重重,奧巴馬做成了歷來使許多人鎩羽而歸的醫療保險改革。相信改革者形象為奧巴馬掙得不少支持。

奧巴馬的當選連任,放在本港現今的時空來檢視,帶來一些啟示和警惕。

啟 示在於人民不會放棄改革者。奧巴馬推動改革,使他在高失業率、經濟低迷之中仍然當選連任,這是美國人民對他的回饋。回看香港,急需興革之事,不知凡幾,若 一下子全面變革,社會也受不了,梁振英應該集中一個或兩個議題,全力推動,做出成績,塑造出改革者的形象。住屋就是這樣的議題,若梁振英在住屋事務上帶來 變革,則2017年的特首直選,若梁振英參與競逐,相信會得到市民以選票回報。

警惕在於美國將持續實施以印銀紙方式救經濟,港元跟隨美元持續貶值,資產泡沫暴脹,樓價不理性地飈升,因此,特區政府在一段較長時間內,應該堅決而堅定地執行管理需求的稅務措施,務必使樓市泡沫不再惡化,爭取空間循增加供應來逐步紓緩住屋問題。

另外,熱錢仍然持續湧入,不應排除有國際大鱷另闢蹊徑發難,政府必須密切監察,絕對不能掉以輕心。

■Glossary

entrust﹕make someone responsible for doing something or taking care of someone else

nadir﹕the worst moment of a particular situation

magnate﹕a person who is rich, powerful and successful, especially in business

rally﹕work together to help somebody who is in a difficult or unpleasant situation

■聲檔 http://english.mingpao.com/critic.htm

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