21 October 2018
Chief executive candidate Carrie Lam has vowed to introduce  “a new governing style” and “a new public finance philosophy”. Photo: HKEJ
Chief executive candidate Carrie Lam has vowed to introduce “a new governing style” and “a new public finance philosophy”. Photo: HKEJ

Can Carrie Lam really ‘drain the swamp’ once elected CE?

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has vowed that once elected chief executive, she will initiate an overhaul of the cabinet, affecting in particular officials responsible for monetary and financial affairs.

Hosting an online talk show in which Lam was the guest, former Democratic Party chairperson Emily Lau brought out a piece of shocking news. 

She said rumor has it that if Lam is elected to the city’s top post, there may be a mass exodus of high-ranking civil servants. 

Why? It is said that Lam’s take-no-prisoner and heavy-handed managing style has frightened and alienated many civil servants who have worked under her before.

Lau said she heard at least three incumbent permanent secretaries are likely to tender their resignations once Lam is elected into office.

It remains to be seen whether Lau’s disclosures are accurate. However, even though cabinet reshuffles often take place whenever a new administration assumes office, it is still likely to raise grave concerns not only in Hong Kong but even in Beijing if Lam’s election as CE does trigger a wave of resignations among senior civil servants.

After all, the unity and stability of our civil service is often seen as the cornerstone of the city’s continued prosperity.

After five years under the administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the people of Hong Kong have learned the lesson of how a disunited government can tear society apart the hard way.

It’s an open secret that members of Leung’s administration don’t get along well with one another, and bureau chiefs often act on their own rather than as a team, not to mention the fact that Leung often makes his cabinet members edgy by constantly looking over their shoulders.

As a result, our bureau chiefs often can’t even stay focused on their job, let alone coordinate with one another as a team.

For example, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah earlier dropped a bombshell, revealing that he was nearly sacked by CY Leung along with former civil service secretary Paul Tang Kwok-wai and ex-home affairs chief Tsang Tak-sing in 2015.

That said, promoting the unity of her cabinet and the stability of the entire civil service could be one of the most, if not the most, urgent tasks facing Lam if she gets elected.

As she has vowed in her election platform to introduce  “a new governing style” and “a new public finance philosophy”, we believe it is pretty likely that she would inject new blood into her administration in a massive and determined way.

Although this might lead to a brief period of turbulence and uncertainty, it is not necessarily a bad thing for Hong Kong.

After all, what is a better way of revitalizing and rejuvenating our rigid and inefficient bureaucratic system than bringing new people with new ideas into the administration?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 17

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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A columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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