To get government moving again, both sides have to give

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 4:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 9:24am

Lawmakers working overtime is nothing unusual, especially when bills and funding requests stack up towards the end of the legislative session. But the huge backlog this year has caused particular concern. Filibustering has, no doubt, dragged out the proceedings. But the fundamental problem lies in the increasingly antagonistic relations between the executive and the legislative branches. With dozens of bills and funding requests still in the queue, it looks likely that some items will not be passed before the summer recess. Research by this newspaper showed only eight of the 29 gazetted bills had been passed in the current session, the lowest percentage in years. Whether the low figure is indicative of a worsening trend remains to be seen, as the pace of scrutiny varies according to the complexity of the bill and when it is tabled. The finding is nonetheless a timely reminder for our lawmakers to catch up lest the pile-up increases in Legco's remaining term.

The outlook for funding requests pending approval in Legco is not promising, either. As a result of delays over the initial funding requests for new towns in the northeast New Territories last month, the Finance Committee is struggling to clear 40-plus items. This includes rent waivers for public housing tenants, allowances for the underprivileged, landfill expansion, hospital renovations and the creation of a new bureau for innovation and technology. The multibillion-dollar projects have a direct impact on people's livelihoods and businesses. It would be in the public interest to approve them as early as possible. Lawmakers behind filibustering have given the green light to some non-controversial items. It makes sense for the government to shuffle the items accordingly.

The working relationship between the executive arm and the legislature has been so antagonistic in recent years that governing has become difficult. Examples of the chief executive struggling for support from both the pan-democratic and establishment camps are plenty. It is therefore puzzling that Leung Chun-ying does not see any problems with the working relationship. The backlog, he said, was due only to a few rebels filibustering. That view was countered by Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing. The situation would not have been so difficult had the 60-odd other legislators maintained normal working relations with the government, he said. Good government does not come from confrontation. Both sides have to work harder to improve the relationship.