Old habits die hard for Fanny Law

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2012, 12:00am


There she goes again. Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun is not even in power but we're already seeing early signs of the same officious arrogance that once doomed her civil service career. As the person in charge of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying's transition team, she says the incumbent administration must help with a proposed shake-up of the government and that the Legislative Council should approve it before disbanding in July. Failure to do so, she warns, will tie up the new government and impair its operations for months.

Really? What's the rush? It's understandable that a new government waiting in the wings is itching to hit the ground running. But what Law and Leung are demanding is a substantial restructuring of the government. That cannot be done on the strength of 'trust me because I say so'.

No one can doubt Law's ability and experience, but patience has never been among her many public virtues. That same cocksure manner contributed to allegations that she tried to muffle academic critics of the government's education reforms as permanent education secretary under former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.

The present administration's governance may be dysfunctional but it is not broken. Law claims the new cabinet line-up is now almost ready but it won't work unless the new government structure is in place for the new ministers and their deputies.

Well, good luck on that! Most current lawmakers and government officials have no incentive to make things easy for Leung's transition team as their terms come to an end.

Leung wants to split the current Commerce and Economic Development Bureau into two bureaus, create a new cultural bureau, and add two new deputies under the chief secretary and financial secretary. The new financial secretary will also be put in charge of housing policy. The merits of these changes vary, but haste and strong-arm tactics will not endear the new government to anyone, least of all its critics and opponents.

The public, not just legislators, need to be persuaded. That takes time and may mean having to wait until after the Legco election in September.