My Take

Loh's new post is a breath of fresh air

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 3:10am

The row over national education has sounded a red alert for the chief executive. His administration is unlikely from now on to push though any major policy opposed by a substantial or at least an overly vocal segment of society.

This means forget about tackling contentious issues like the small house policy in the New Territories or forcing Catholic and Anglican schools to open up their governing boards to parents and community leaders. That is just as well. We have had a century and a half of Christian brainwashing; a few more years won't hurt, as long as we keep communist propaganda at bay.

The trick now, for the government, is to be alert as early as possible to any potential policy controversy, and make a U-turn quickly without making it look too obvious. As a reader puts it, Leung Chun-ying should stick to jobs, clean air, social welfare, housing and medical services - pressing issues one and all. That seems to be what Leung plans on doing; and no one will seriously object.

Stanley Wong Yuen-fai, the new chairman of the Housing Authority's subsidised housing committee, has announced he wants to increase the supply of public rental units and home-ownership scheme flats well beyond the targets originally proposed. He is no doubt right that those most in need of housing should be taken care of before focusing on the needs of middle-class households.

Meanwhile, Leung's appointment of Christine Loh Kung-wai as undersecretary for the environment - long rumoured but never confirmed until yesterday - is good news. Loh has long been an outspoken critic of the government's policies on the environment, harbour reclamation and urban planning. Another concern is waste management.

As the late US president Lyndon Johnson famously said, "It's probably better to have [a critic] inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in." But that may be too cynical an interpretation.

True, Loh will still be under the thumb of environment secretary Wong Kam-sing, a well-known architect who is untested as an environmentalist. But if the pair can develop a rapport and help improve the city's noxious and deadly air pollution, it would be a major achievement.