Carrie Lam has all the talents needed in a CE

Updated: 2017-02-08 07:19

By Rachel Cartland(HK Edition)

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Rachel Cartland argues that the former chief secretary's distinguished career is a testimony to her dedication to Hong Kong and its people

People nowadays sometimes seem perverse. If, say, you needed to have your appendix taken out you'd prefer the surgeon with the most experience together with the best reputation for skill and knowledge, wouldn't you? Common sense, isn't it? But in the cataclysmic year of 2016 it seemed that all around the world ordinary folk seemed to signal that they preferred leaders who seemed like a more colorful version of themselves and that they no longer trusted the experts. That sort of approach surely cannot produce a sensible outcome.

Carrie Lam has all the talents needed in a CE

If we look at the candidates for the Chief Executive election from the rational perspective of who combines experience with high intelligence applied systematically, the former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will score very highly. Anyone who has ever worked with Lam in the government will, if they are honest, admit that her abilities are formidable. The famous "Peter Principle" suggests that eventually the successful will find a level beyond which they cannot operate, but there is no indication that Lam has met that fate. On the contrary, it seems that she is as skilled as ever at mastering a complex brief and then deploying what she has learnt to dazzling effect. Colleagues have seen this over and over again as she has climbed the career ladder, but it is amazing still to be able to do this while juggling all the balls in the chief secretary's portfolio. These inborn talents honed by a lifetime of discipline and hard work also impress accomplished outsiders and make Lam an outstanding ambassador for Hong Kong and its brand, magnified when overseas by her accomplished use of the English language and all its subtleties.

Carrie Lam has all the talents needed in a CE

The travesty certain people are trying to make of an innocuous anecdote of her awkward readjustment to the role of an ordinary housewife is indicative of our over-politicized environment. The post of chief secretary brings with it a magnificently staffed official residence so that the incumbent will never have to give a thought to household matters. But in the less heady days when although both busy and senior she was not as privileged, she was a veritable superwoman when it came to her role of being a working mother. Others who did not achieve so much would whisper to each other about the extraordinary energy and efficiency that saw her working flat out all day then going to local stores to buy the groceries which she would take home to cook dinner for her family. She has never shown a particular enthusiasm for the trappings of office, which is surely a virtue in someone who has within her grasp the possibility of accumulating so much.

Her dedication to Hong Kong and for its people cannot be doubted. It can be observed in the causes which are particularly dear to her and on which she has lavished particular attention. These include poverty alleviation, conservation and revitalization of the city's built heritage, and the encouragement of social enterprises. Despite her busy schedule, she has been open to those who come to her with individual cases and good causes and will respond positively whenever she can, utilizing if necessary her formidable network.

Lam has quite explicitly said that if she becomes CE her intention is not to follow in the footsteps of Leung Chun-ying. It is to be hoped, though, that this wish to differentiate herself will not lead to turning her back on all the good policies of the past five years, particularly the emphasis on providing more housing in order to address some of Hong Kong's sharpest social grievances. And a wise potential CE must reach out to our younger generation to ensure that they feel valued and are confident that their concerns are being meaningfully addressed. In this respect, there are encouraging examples of Lam being willing to meet opponents of the SAR government. Development of empathy and understanding will be essential for a successful Chief Executive.

(HK Edition 02/08/2017 page8)