Task forces to co-ordinate policy
The government plans to set up four high-level task forces to better co-ordinate policy proposals before they reach the Executive Council, says Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Lam yesterday told TVB in an interview that they were needed because key issues had become more complicated and required more focused discussions among ministers.
The four task forces would each have a specific focus and they would be separate from Lam's existing general policy committee.
In the past five years, the committee has met weekly to resolve issues between departments before proposals are submitted to the Exco or released to the public.
'Nowadays, it would be impossible for a single bureau to formulate its policies alone,' Lam said. 'It requires more discussions among ministers at the stage of policy formulation.'
The task forces will focus on four main policy areas: security and constitutional issues; land, housing and infrastructure; welfare, education and manpower; and sustainable development and the environment.
Lam said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying gave the green light last week during his first meeting with ministers to advance his campaign promises.
She said the government could set up more task forces in the future if necessary.
Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said he supported Lam's efforts to improve communication between the bureaus.
'For instance, it requires more co-ordination between the Environment Bureau and the Transport [and Housing] Bureau to formulate policies on bus fuels and bus routes,' Wong said.
Lam also said she was surprised by the controversies over illegal structures at the homes of members of the new administration.
However, she said she thought the government would be able to recover from its rocky start and begin implementing its policies.
'The new team might be facing some difficulties at the moment,' Lam said. 'But we are all prepared to weather this tough time and hope that we can regain the public's confidence soon if we work hard for the public.'
The chief secretary said she did not expect the media to uncover information about individual officials, including things that happened more than two decades ago - a reference to the controversy surrounding Mak Chai-kwong, the development secretary, who has been accused of abusing the civil-service rental allowance in the 1980s by leasing a flat he owned to another civil servant.
Meanwhile, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said he expects public spending to increase in coming years, but warned policymakers must take care to make sure increases do not get out of control.
'Money cannot solve all the problems,' Tsang, who held the post under former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, told Commercial Radio. 'We should have incremental increases of an appropriate level and strike a balance.'
Leung has vowed to improve the livelihoods of residents by narrowing the gap between rich and poor and giving more subsidies to the elderly.
Additional reporting by Dennis Chong