Eva Cheng tells Leung to deliver on promises
The outgoing transport and housing secretary cautioned the next administration yesterday, saying that it would take public support as well as hard-driving ministers to resolve today's complex social issues.
Eva Cheng, who decided to quit in what she described as an ever-more challenging political environment, said the administration of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying must live up to what it had promised, to gain broad support. 'The people expect you to live up to your promise; the new administration should do what it pledged,' she said '[To do so] you can't just rely on a tough minister or the government alone ... but have to involve all the stakeholders.'
Cheng's remarks follow persistent speculation about tension between her and Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - the 'fighter minister' widely tipped to be the future chief secretary.
Leung, who has criticised the pace of public housing construction, promised during his campaign to cut to four years the existing five-year plan to build 75,000 public housing flats. Cheng said that would not be easy. 'Construction works take just 36 months, it is the preliminary works [that are time-consuming]: applications for change of land use, slope works,' Cheng said. 'It is not just about compressing the procedures. How do you make more land and how are you going to build it?'
As to whether Lam's control over the land bank had made it difficult for her bureau to find appropriate sites for public housing, Cheng said it would be a good thing if merging land and housing into the same bureau allowed projects to run more smoothly and efficiently.
Leung has proposed separating housing from the Transport and Housing Bureau.
Cheng cautioned her successor - tipped to be former highways chief Mak Chai-kwong - to be flexible to keep up with the ever-changing public sentiment. She noted how the MTR's process to craft a fare-adjustment policy had been hailed as open and transparent back in 2007, but nonetheless sparked discontent in recent years as it led to three fare rises during times of high inflation.
She said the bureau was considering adding service quality as a factor to limit MTR fare increases if its services fell below benchmarks.
Cheng said she would not work for a private firm after retiring.