CE-elect deserves a chance to get job done

Updated: 2017-03-29 07:19

By Paul Surtees(HK Edition)

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Paul Surtees asks for Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's newly elected head, to be given breathing room

Perhaps few people were surprised to find Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had been elected to become Hong Kong's next Chief Executive. Anyone who knows this woman will appreciate her impressive admixture of graciousness, penetrating intelligence and well-honed administrative ability of the highest order. She will need to apply all these traits, and more besides, as she takes on what any fair-minded person must admit to be a supremely challenging role, leading Hong Kong, from this summer.

We may hope that our new Hong Kong CE will be given a fair chance to start things going, her way, upon assuming office.

Her election slogan was well-received: "We care; we listen; we act". Her electoral manifesto set out in detail her proposals to change Hong Kong for the better. She has been duly elected on that platform, so can be fairly expected to effect the appropriate important and indeed much-needed policy changes in a step-by-step way. Those who might disagree with her proposed improvements may be urged to give her - and her team which promises to include the best talent with different political affiliations - a chance to work. Rome wasn't built in a day; and the numerous important areas ripe for improvement in Hong Kong's governance cannot all be properly addressed in a very short period. Some will take weeks or months; some may even engage her over her whole five-year tenure at the helm of Hong Kong.

CE-elect deserves a chance to get job done

Lam has a lifetime's experience of the inner workings of government, as a civil servant and minister. Her 36 years of public service provide her with many insights on how to get things done in the public sector. Her seven years in the Finance Bureau have let her develop the skills of knowing when and how to save public money - and when to spend it to improve the lives of Hong Kong's people - something our previous financial secretary could have done a whole lot better.

A rather obvious need is for the ineffective Mandatory Provident Fund system to be completely transformed into one which offers real economic protection to our older citizens by providing a universal pension. That represents a major, and colossally expensive, change - and will take quite a while to effect. However, as a former director of social welfare, Lam understands better than most the social need for it, and also understands the need to start work on this vital issue.

In the interest of more efficient governance and social harmony, let us avoid and condemn all needless politicization of public issues. Lam was heavily criticized for quietly and expeditiously arranging the establishment of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, to be filled with precious items of Chinese culture on loan from Beijing. For skipping public consultation on this project - bearing in mind how long most public consultations take, this could drag on interminably - she was assailed for some unknown political motive. This is despite all costs incurred being borne by the Hong Kong Jockey Club's charitable trust. The Palace Museum will enrich the cultural life of Hong Kong, at no cost to taxpayers. Yet Lam was so roundly abused by her critics that she apparently even re-considered standing for election as CE. Thankfully, her inner core of resilience led her to carry on; a resilience that she will probably need to apply to her future role, a thousand-fold! One of her manifesto objectives was to instigate the provision of a cultural bureau in Hong Kong, a very welcome move.

Our new CE deserves a "honeymoon period" of at least a few months, giving her a chance to move things in the right direction, acting on her stated electoral pledges, before the nay-sayers resume their negative rants and their kneejerk objections to government initiatives.

One of her key objectives is to bring Hong Kong people, of all political persuasions, closer together, with a view to cooperating on improvement over several important areas of government and constitutional reform that require cross-party consensus. "It takes two to tango," runs the old saying: I'm sure that our new CE will try her best to be conciliatory in bringing in the maximum number of diverse political parties into the fold.

(HK Edition 03/29/2017 page8)