Exco changes 'may bring confusion'
Tony Cheung and Gary Cheung
Incoming chief executive Leung Chun-ying may cause confusion with his plan to raise the profile of non-official Exco members, Executive Council convenor Ronald Arculli has warned.
Arculli, who is expected to leave Exco after seven years when Leung takes office on July 1, also warned that Leung's proposal to make Exco more active in policymaking could backfire.
He said mix-ups could arise if a non-official member spoke out on policy without consulting the official members - the 12 ministers heading policy bureaus plus the financial and justice secretaries and chief secretary.
'The role of [the non-official members of] Exco is clear. They have an advisory role,' Arculli said.
He is one of the 13 non-official members and succeeded Leung as convenor last year.
'If [a non-official Exco member] stands up and talks and the minister does not know about it, will the [non-official member] be acting against the minister?' he asked, in a veiled attack on Leung, who was criticised for giving views that contrasted with the government's stance when he was convenor.
On policymaking, Arculli thinks Exco should keep the status quo, where policy formulation is largely the responsibility of permanent secretaries and ministers. If non-official members took too great a role in the process it may create confusion.
Arculli also urged Leung to create an alliance with politicians to break the deadlock that often arose between the government and the Legislative Council - and not to be deterred by the failure of first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to do so.
'If possible, he should build an alliance by bringing into Exco party leaders who share his ideas. If the party leader agrees to join Exco, then the government would have the party's vote in Legco,' he said.
A similar model adopted by Tung fell apart in 2003 when Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun quit Exco after 500,000 Hongkongers took to the streets to protest against the Article 23 national security legislation.
But Arculli said the previous 'nightmare' should not keep Leung from trying again.
Looking forward, Arculli sees an ageing population and widening income gap as the main challenges for Hong Kong. But he is optimistic the city will thrive because of the mainland's economic prospects.
'The place that C.Y. [Leung] likes to compare most with the Hong Kong economy is Singapore, but there are a few major differences,' Arculli said.
He cited efforts to attract immigrants, the opening of casinos to boost GDP and a less mountainous landscape as Singapore's distinctive features. '[Singapore state-owned investment company] Temasek and [sovereign wealth fund] GIC even give incentives to attract foreign investments. But if we do that in Hong Kong, it won't necessarily trickle down to benefit the people.'
Arculli was making an oblique reference to Leung's idea of finding social and economic investments to make better use of the government's HK$669 billion reserves, such as addressing the ageing population and promoting growth sectors of the economy.
He questioned whether the idea was feasible and whether it would create imbalances.
'[The government] may be good at managing the money, but if it invests in different industries and companies, does it have the necessary experience and competence to carry it off?' he asked.
But he believes Leung deserves the opportunity to try to put his ideas into practice.
'We have plenty of time to see whether he can succeed or not,' he said.