Time for leaders to listen

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am


A restructuring will give government leaders more time to hit the streets and gauge the mood of the public to feed into their long-term plans, the chief executive-elect's top aide says.

The shake-up, to be put to lawmakers next week, will see the creation of two new policy bureaus, while the financial secretary and chief secretary will be given deputies.

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, head of Leung Chun-ying's transition office, says the changes will allow all ministers, especially the chief secretary and financial secretary, more time to spend on district visits.

She again urged lawmakers to act quickly to approve the shake-up before Leung takes office on July 1 - pointing to the previous government reshuffle, which was put to Legco in May 2007 and approved a month later. The proposal will be submitted to Legco's constitutional affairs panel on Wednesday, she says, and she expects it to be passed by the middle of next month.

'The Legislative Council election is scheduled to be held in September and there will be some new faces,' she said. 'If the revamp plan is not completed before July, we have to start the process of winning lawmakers' support all over again after the election and the restructuring would be completed in the first quarter of next year, after the completion of relevant procedures.'

Law rejects claims by lawmakers, especially from the pan-democratic camp, that Leung is rushing the plans through Legco. Pan-democrats say Leung should put the changes out for public consultation.

'The new administration will need time for team building and prioritisation of policy initiatives before the delivery of Leung's maiden policy address [in October],' Law said.

The changes include splitting the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau into a commerce and industries bureau and a communications and technology bureau, both under the deputy financial secretary. The deputy financial secretary will also be responsible for economic integration between Hong Kong and the mainland. Paul Chan Mo-po, legislator for the accounting sector, is believed to be a front runner for the position.

The deputy chief secretary will oversee portfolios such as education, labour and welfare on his boss's behalf. The ministers responsible for the relevant bureaus will report to the deputy.

Law also gave more clues to the new administration's approach to governance, with a pledge to give district branches of government agencies more power over neighbourhood matters such as building control and tree management. District officers would get a bigger role.

She said all political appointees, including the controversial tier of undersecretaries and political assistants appointed a year after the 2007 government shake-up, would have to spend more time meeting the public across the city to raise their profile.

'Political assistants need to enhance their visibility among members of the public,' she said.

The political appointees have long come under fire for failing to justify their monthly salaries of between HK$134,000 and HK$164,000.

The University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme stopped carrying out surveys on familiarity with such officials in 2010, because few people recognised them.

The new deputy chief secretary and deputy finance chief will earn more than the HK$298,000 monthly salary for policy secretaries, but less than the HK$308,000 the justice secretary pockets.

Meanwhile, former Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung has emerged as hot favourite to be Leung's justice secretary.