Carrie Lam and her 100 days test

July 05, 2017 11:26
Thorny issues such as housing crisis will put Carrie Lam’s leadership skills to severe test in the coming months. Photo: CNSA

Just a few days into her term as Hong Kong's new chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has sparked chatter about a refreshingly new governance approach and common touch.

During city tours in the past few days, Lam was no longer greeted by angry protesters, unlike what her predecessor always had to endure on such trips.

However, demonstrating her common touch and pulling publicity stunts won't be enough to convince the public that the new CE is determined to redress the currently grave situation in Hong Kong and restore harmony to society.

Lam, it appears, is well aware that actions always speak louder than words when it comes to addressing public grievances.

Therefore, on day 1 in office, she vowed in no uncertain terms that she will overturn some highly unpopular arrangements over abolition of the offsetting mechanism of the Mandatory Provident Fund, a proposal pushed by the former administration.

Lam has ordered the new Secretary for Labor and Welfare, Law Chi-kwong, to restudy the issue and facilitate consensus-building among major stakeholders.

On her first day in office, Lam also invited local media heads to a tea gathering and briefed them on her upcoming new policy initiatives.

In particular, she expressed high confidence about being able to get her plan for HK$5 billion extra annual spending on the education sector passed through the Legco before the latter takes its summer recess.

If she really manages to get that funding request passed in the legislature at such "historic pace" as she put it, it will definitely be a good omen for her "hundred-days’ reform".

Lam's hundred-days’ reform refers to her decision to restore the former practice of delivering the annual Policy Address in October instead of January. Between now and October there are approximately a hundred days, and it is during this period of time that Lam will be working at full throttle in order to deliver her "new deal".

That said, even though Lam and her new administration appear to have got off to a pretty decent start, the real challenges are yet to come.

For example, how to press ahead with the so-called co-location arrangements at the Hong Kong terminal of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link according to schedule. It is a highly delicate, complicated and politically sensitive issue, and will undoubtedly prove a tough job for the new government.

And then there are the problems of housing shortages and skyrocketing property prices. People will be watching if Lam, in her first policy address, can come up with decisive and effective measures to resolve the current acute home affordability crisis in the city.

That will, to a significant extent, determine whether she will be seen as a capable leader in the public eye and able to live up to her reputation as "the woman of steel".

While we are glad to notice that Lam is not afraid of tackling tough and controversial issues head-on, it is our sincere hope that the new administration can stay the course in promoting dialogue with different sectors of society in order to heal the wounds in society.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 4

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal