Nurturing talent as important as process in suffrage debate

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 3:27am

As the nomination of candidates continues to dominate the universal suffrage debate, an equally important issue has not been given the attention it deserves - a sustainable supply of political talent. However well designed the electoral arrangements will be, it does not help if a future chief executive lacks the experience to do the job and cannot find the right people to join the ruling team.

Over the years, various steps have been taken to nurture more political talent. The introduction of the ministerial system in 2002 and the subsequent expansion to include another two layers of officials is an example. Appointments to government advisory committees are also more diversified than before. Separately, political parties are more willingly to field younger candidates in Legco and district council polls than before.

But the truth is that despite the emergence of a handful of up-and-coming lawmakers, the political arena is still dominated by faces from two decades ago. The situation in the administration is not reassuring, either. The performance of some ministers leaves a lot to be desired, while the lower tiers are filled by the politically inexperienced. Only a few from the previous term managed to take up higher positions in the new government. Three political assistants quit Leung Chun-ying's team over the past month for various reasons. As suggested by Executive Councillor Bernard Chan, the government and political parties will face succession problems in the coming decade. His worry about whether the future chief executive can assemble a strong ruling team is not unfounded.

Tackling an ageing political population is as urgent as hammering out the right electoral arrangements. Government and political parties have to step up their efforts to groom talent. One option is to give parties a bigger role in governance. That would give them more room to develop and mature and help nurture a stronger sense of responsibility. Hopefully, this change could attract more aspirants to come forward.

The development of party politics is an inevitable step as we move towards universal suffrage. Currently, the chief executive cannot be a member of any party. The lack of firm party support in the legislature means policies, legislation and funding are all endorsed on a case-by-case basis, often after painful lobbying across the political spectrum. The results are inefficiency, inconsistency and instability. The present system is hardly sustainable without a revamp.