23 February 2019
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is said to be seriously considering forming a high-level advisory committee on economic affairs. Photo: Facebook
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is said to be seriously considering forming a high-level advisory committee on economic affairs. Photo: Facebook

Govt plans high-level economic advisory committee, again

One might still remember that since the day Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was elected our new chief executive, she has vowed to deliver a New Deal, a pledge that her administration would stay focused on economic development.

And even though Hong Kong continues to be engulfed in political turmoil and controversies less than two months after she assumed office, it appears that Lam is determined to stay the course and not to let herself get distracted by political issues.

Following her earlier initiatives to facilitate cross-border cooperation and partnership with mainland authorities on the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area project, it is said that Carrie Lam is now seriously considering establishing a high-level advisory committee on economic affairs above the existing Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.

It is also said that she is thinking about announcing the decision in her first policy address in October.

Sources said Lam has high hopes for the committee, and although the idea remains a pretty general one at this stage, it is likely that she is going to invite heavyweights in the local business and financial sectors to sit on the planned committee.

In fact, all of Carrie Lam’s predecessors had set up their own high-level advisory committees to advise the government on economic issues. Former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, for example, formed an “international consultant committee” in 1998 to advise the SAR administration on economic development strategies.

Tung’s committee is perhaps best remembered for its star-studded membership: News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, former HSBC chairman William Purves, Toyota Motor Corp. chairman Shoichiro Toyoda and several other international business heavyweights.

However, the high-profile committee failed to live up to public expectations as its members only met seven times throughout their seven-year term.

The unsatisfactory experience of Tung’s economic advisory committee didn’t discourage his successor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen from forming his own panel. However, unlike Tung’s committee, Tsang’s creation was dominated by local elites such as former vice-chancellor of the Chinese University Lawrence Lau Juen-yee and Li & Fung Group chief executive Victor Fung Kwok-king.

After he became chief executive. Leung Chun-ying also established his own economic advisory committee, and among its members were former foreign minister of Singapore George Yeo and former financial minister of Taiwan Christina Liu.

Unfortunately, both committees under Donald Tsang and CY Leung failed to produce tangible results.

Perhaps only time will tell whether Carrie Lam’s proposed committee, if it materializes, will succeed or end up being just an effort at window-dressing like the previous advisory committees.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 22

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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