Lam's victory heads off major leadership crisis
Updated: 2017-03-27 06:43
By Tony Kwok(China Daily)
I breathed a sigh of relief upon the announcement of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's victory in the Chief Executive election. For the past few weeks, I have been worrying that a major crisis is looming. Many people had viewed with suspicion the "pan-democrat" politicians, scholars and supporting media, such as Apple Daily, who had continuously criticized John Tsang Chun-wah throughout the past nine years in his role as financial secretary, then suddenly made a U-turn to give him the strongest possible support, letting Tsang score high marks in popularity polls. Was it a secret plot backed and orchestrated by a foreign power and pulling strings behind the scenes to create a constitutional crisis in Hong Kong?
However, the threat is not over. You can see the most vulgar curses and personal attacks on Lam every day on social media forums controlled by "pan-democrats". Immediately after the announcement of the result, opposition legislator James To appealed to the public to come out on July 1 and join the public protest despite the election being conducted under the strictest public and media scrutiny. This clearly reflects their true disruptive intention.
Hence it can be foreseen that there will be no honeymoon period for Lam as new CE, and whatever she proposed to do will be strongly opposed and criticized in a kneejerk reaction by "pan-democrat" legislators, scholars and media, irrespective of whether the proposals are beneficial to Hong Kong and the people. It is, therefore, a complete waste of time and effort if she plans to bring the "pan-democrats" into the fold. Instead, she should focus on winning the hearts and minds of the Hong Kong people.
All leaders appreciate the value of the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis upon their taking up their new office. One of Lam's strengths is the strong support from the central government. She could capitalize on this by seeking the central government's help to provide measures that are beneficial to Hong Kong. For example, more university spaces for the coming Diploma of Secondary Education students; more opportunities for Hong Kong professionals to operate business on the Chinese mainland; let more well-off mainland visitors come to Hong Kong to boost the tourism industry. Better still, persuade the central government to release more land at the border to help ease Hong Kong's land shortage, which Macao has successfully achieved.
Lam's other strength is her competency in public service. She should demonstrate to the public her ability to get things done in the shortest possible time and win over the people's confidence. Perhaps, she should consider announcing a "100-day plan". This plan could include six points.
Firstly, the Hong Kong government took over the Eastern Harbour Crossing (EHC) last year; toll charges are an extra source of revenue not previously budgeted. The new administration can reduce EHC toll charges to match the Cross-Harbour Tunnel's, allowing a cheaper and freer flow of traffic, much to the delight of drivers and passengers.
Secondly, Hong Kong is the only place in developed economies and neighboring cities that still observes six-day or five-and-a-half-day work weeks. Amending the public holidays ordinance to include all Saturdays would in one stroke enhance the quality of life of many people, not to mention automatically stimulating consumer spending, thereby benefiting merchants.
Thirdly, the public's No 1 concern at present is housing, as can be seen from the recent rush for Home Ownership Scheme applications. The new administration should quickly identify and release land for the "first-time buyer scheme" as per her policy proposal, giving new hope to the young middle class.
Fourthly, the public's No 2 concern is medical and health services, mainly precipitated by a perennial shortage of medical personnel. The new government should immediately loosen the current protectionist policy on hiring foreign doctors and nurses. A bold announcement to hire 100 foreign doctors would give an unmistakable affirmation to prioritizing care for the elderly, as most patients are.
Fifthly, immediately implement her policy proposal to use the government interest obtained as a Mass Transit Railway shareholder to reduce MTR fares, which would benefit nearly every Hong Kong citizen.
Finally, Hong Kong has in recent years suffered a drop in public confidence because of the disparity in verdicts and sentences made by different judges in "Occupy Central" cases. The new government could direct the Law Reform Commission to carry out a complete review of the legal system and related legislation based on comparison of the best practices among common law jurisdictions. This would modernize our judiciary and help win back public confidence.
There is little doubt that Lam is facing an uphill battle in her new job. Given that the incumbent Leung Chun-ying has already achieved a great deal in the past five years despite "pan-democrats'" obstructionism, with a unified team and strong support from the central government, she should be able to build on the firm foundations of the current administration.
(HK Edition 03/27/2017 page5)