Appointment could signal end of C.Y. plan
Paul Chan Mo-po's appointment as development chief (instead of the proposed new post of deputy financial secretary) signals that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pulled the reins on his restructuring plan.
Speculation was rife that Chan's tenure would be temporary, given the uncertainty clouding Leung's plan to create new posts and increase the number of bureaus from 12 to 14.
But facing the public for the first time as secretary for development yesterday, Chan refused to comment on such claims, and batted down media speculation on whether he would switch to deputy financial secretary shortly after his appointment.
'I won't take it as a temporary job. I will do my best wholeheartedly,' said Chan. 'I don't think I'm the second choice to the chief executive.'
Chan, an accountant and former lawmaker, added that the government had not decided when and how to launch the restructuring plan, which would require the Legislative Council's approval.
But a source close to the government said Chan's tenure was a long-term one, as Leung had already shelved the plan to create deputy posts for the chief secretary and financial secretary, probably due to political pressure.
'As the government is in hot water and Patrick Ho Chi-ping, [a former ophthalmologist] who is tipped to be deputy chief secretary, is an unpopular choice, it is pointless to push for the creation of the [two new posts],' the source said.
'Pressing ahead without public support would only further deplete the political capital of the new administration. There is no need for the administration to rush the revamp plan after the Legco session resumes in October.' The source said the government was in favour of the plan's partial introduction in the near future.
Meanwhile, a person close to the chief executive said time pressure played a part in Leung picking Chan. The post was vacated by Mak Chai-kwong just days after he was appointed by Leung due to a scandal over Mak's alleged misuse of a government allowance in the 1980s to 1990s.
'Time was running short, so it was very hard for Leung to find a development minister,' the person said.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the former development chief who served in the last government, gave hints earlier this month of humps in the revamp proposal.
Asked if the administration would give up the plan, Lam said there were many possibilities and that they would carefully consider how the restructure should be carried out.
Chan is expected to inherit many politically sensitive problems, including acquiring private land for new developments in the northeast New Territories. In his first encounter with the media as minister, Chan was visibly uneasy and once had to fold his hands to stop them from shaking.
Among the key tasks he cited yesterday were increasing land supply for housing, building the city's second core office development in Kowloon East, heritage conservation and urban renewal.
Chan said he would deal with unauthorised housing structures - another hot-button issue - according to the law. He said the government was not considering granting amnesty to villagers caught with illegal structures at their homes.
However, he faces criticism for not having the credentials to spearhead the city's development and has been called to question for not joining Legco's development panel in his four years as a legislator.
The president of the Institute of Urban Design, Bernard Lim Wan-fung, said a policymaker need not necessarily come from a related field.
Executive councillor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who heads the Urban Renewal Authority, said Chan was a good choice given his extensive experience in management and legislative process. 'He's going to take his job seriously,' Cheung said.
Chan was an independent non-executive director of developer Wharf Holdings as well as a board member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.