New government set for tough start without 'honeymoon'

Updated: 2017-03-30 07:13

By Raymond So(HK Edition)

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The Chief Executive election has successfully concluded. But tough jobs await the new administration. Many have already talked about the likelihood that there might not be a "honeymoon" period for the new administration. Worse still, the new administration will be under pressure to resolve some deep-seated social problems quickly. There is a risk that any delay in tackling those problems could bring public discontent which opposition parties could take advantage of to attack the government.

Last year Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - who was then chief secretary for administration - pointed out clearly that there were three major livelihood problems Hong Kong needed to fix. The first involves operation of Link REIT. The second is linked to the MTR Corporation's Fare Adjustment Mechanism. The third is about the offset mechanism of the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF). The government has worked hard to fix these three problems but not much has been achieved. The Link REIT is a listed investment trust and operates on 100 percent commercial principles. The government simply cannot intervene in its operations apart from making some moral suasion. The MTR's annual fare adjustment strictly follows a prescribed formula. The government has made some effort to facilitate an early revision of the mechanism but changes so far fall short of public expectations. With the offset mechanism of the MPF, the business sector has made it clear they will not give any concession. Judging from the tremendous amount of effort the government has made and what the government has achieved, we can tell these problems are so tough that no quick solutions can be expected.

New government set for tough start without 'honeymoon'

Worse still, Hong Kong faces far more problems than these three. The city is short of land for - among other things - housing and economic development, upward social mobility for young people, accommodation facilities for the elderly and hospital places. In simple words, we have too many problems to cope with.

From a management point of view, it will be perfect if the new administration can solve all the problems Hong Kong faces. But we have to be realistic. There are so many problems that it will be impossible to solve them all in a short period of time. Nevertheless, if the next administration can first identify the most crucial and pressing problems and offer the solutions, it will win much-desired popularity.

Hence, the next administration should not aim to solve all the problems in one go. On the contrary, it should try to manage expectations of the public by first identifying the most pressing issues we need to fix. Then the government should let the general public see its passion and determination in solving these pressing problems. When some problems are effectively tackled, people will have more confidence in the government on its future moves. The idea is simple: We cannot do everything at one time. Why wouldn't we focus on the most important issues and do them right?

In achieving this simple strategy, clear signals and open dialogue are essential. As suggested above, there will not be a "honeymoon" period for the next administration. Instead of wishing for solidarity, the new administration's first job is to build popularity and confidence among the people. Only when results are delivered by the government and observed by the public can opposition views be contained. The tough jobs await the new administration ahead.

New government set for tough start without 'honeymoon'

(HK Edition 03/30/2017 page8)