As our new Chief Executive Carrie Lam has vowed to introduce a “new approach to governance” to her administration, all eyes are on whether she can truly deliver on her promise.
And her first 100 days in office would be critical because her performance as CE, the way she comes across, and the policy initiatives she puts forward over the next three months or so will, to a significant extent, shape public perceptions of her and define the values she and her administration stand for.
There are several things I would strongly urge Lam to do immediately in order to prove her determination in rejuvenating the government as well as restoring public trust in it.
Firstly, I suggest Lam immediately carry out the recommendations made by the independent inquiry led by former chief justice Andrew Li and amend articles 3 and 8 of the existing Prevention of Bribery Ordinance so that these will apply to the chief executive as well in order to demonstrate her commitment to promoting a clean government.
In fact her predecessor, Leung Chun-ying, dragged his feet over closing the loopholes in our anti-graft laws throughout his term in office over the past five years, thereby raising doubts among society whether he was trying to place himself above the law.
Secondly, the administration should also legislate for an “Archives Act” immediately in order to meet the basic requirements and standards of modern public governance which have already been widely adopted across the developed world. An “Archives Act” will not only help preserve our city’s history but also guarantee our citizens free access to official information.
Thirdly, I strongly recommend that our new CE establish an open, fair and transparent selection mechanism when it comes to key personnel appointments concerning the various statutory and consultation bodies under the government. The establishment of such a mechanism can give talented people who are committed to serving the community an equal opportunity to be recruited for public office and avoid nepotism as well as favoritism.
In fact, the last chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, repeatedly appointed controversial and unqualified figures to these key public organizations, which aroused widespread suspicion among the public that he was offering nice cushy jobs to his buddies and supporters. It is time for Carrie Lam to fix that.
On the other hand, in order to facilitate effective and efficient governance, Lam should repair the government’s frayed relations with Legco as a result of the confrontational style of governance adopted by her predecessor, and enhance constructive interaction between the executive and the legislative branches.
In order to achieve that, our new chief executive should restore the former practice of announcing the annual Policy Address in October, so that the implementation of new policy initiatives can coincide with the annual legislative calendar of Legco (Editor’s note: under current practice, Legco takes its summer recess in early July and resumes in early October every year).
By doing so, it will not only make it much more convenient for lawmakers to discuss the Policy Address thoroughly and scrutinize the policy initiatives it puts forward, but will also allow the financial secretary a lot more time to prepare his annual budget in accordance with the direction and tone set by the Policy Address.
In the meantime, in order to facilitate good and sustainable relations between the government and Legco, the new CE and her administration must respect the autonomy and independence of the legislature, and refrain from interfering in its internal affairs.
Lastly, I suggest that Carrie Lam increase the number of Q&A sessions between her and lawmakers every year, and order her bureau chiefs to stop beating around the bush when answering lawmakers’ questions during Legco meetings.
Although Carrie Law was elected into office through a small-circle election and therefore lacks credibility, she can win public approval and recognition if she is truly committed to upholding the core values of Hong Kong and enforcing a culture of accountability in her administration through solid and decisive actions over the next five years.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 30
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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