Five years may seem like a short time in which to see any extensive change. But in a fast-paced, cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, quick development is normal. Hong Kong has always been an easy place to live, with its freedoms and global identity. In the last half decade, further improvements have been seen in terms of access to information, choice of international products and the comfort of the physical environment. If you ask me, Hong Kong is more liveable now than ever before.
Hong Kong has become an increasingly convenient place to live, largely thanks to easy access to information technology. For example, the government website, GovHK, offers easy one-click access to many types of public service. The MTR and Citybus both have smartphone apps to make journey planning easier. These tools improve accessibility and efficiency for citizens, making living in the city very easy.
Hong Kong has also proved to be more liveable by the fact that it's easier to get hold of foreign goods and services. In 2011, the government signed its first Free Trade Agreement with European states, opening up a completely new and more efficient product flow for Hong Kong citizens.
Our physical environment has also become cleaner and healthier. For example, the 2011 Fair Winds Charter encourages boats to reduce their carbon emissions, which currently make up some 40 per cent of Hong Kong's total emissions.
All in all, I think Hong Kong has definitely become more liveable in the last five years.
In 2012, The Economist selected Hong Kong as the most liveable city in the world. Hong Kong citizens were mostly surprised, and didn't think we deserved this honour. After all, property prices are still skyrocketing, and many of the underprivileged are living in subdivided flats or cage homes.
If we look at Hong Kong's development over the past five years, I don't think it has changed for the better.
In terms of basic necessities, the Composite Consumer Price Index shows that food, transportation fees and electricity rates, among other things, have been rising over the past five years. The government's one-off subsidies are not enough for low-income families to be able to afford these services.
What's more, the number of low-income families in Hong Kong has gone up from 1.24 million in 2009 to 1.75 million in 2012, which means about 1 in 4 people are living hand to mouth. And because property prices are so high, it's also very hard for the middle classes to own homes, let alone those on lower incomes.
When we cannot improve our living standards, we feel angry at the government. The July 1 marches are an annual protest rally that allow us to voice this anger freely. The number of protestors that take part each year is an indication of how the government has performed during the previous year. Both the police and the organiser's figures show that the number has risen gradually from 2008 to 2013. There have also been more violent protests in general since 2008.
All in all, Hong Kong has not been a more liveable place over the last five years; but I hope that will change in the coming years.