After 100 days, Carrie Lam faces policy challenge
Up to now the chief executive has achieved good results, but stiff challenges lie ahead and she must point the way forward in her first policy address
The chief executive’s first 100 days in office may not have attracted as much public scrutiny as is the case in some Western countries. But if a report card is to be made for Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in that respect, it is probably one with relatively good scores. From easing political confrontation to boosting education spending and tackling housing shortages, the new Hong Kong leader has made a commendable start.
Unlike her embattled predecessor Leung Chun-ying, who was busy handling a series of hot potatoes during his initial months of rule, Lam has had a less bumpy ride. That enabled her to respond to a raft of political and social problems at an early stage, as shown in the way she handled the saga of pro-independence banners on university campuses. Her experience in the civil service, and later in the ministerial tier, has given her the political acumen and administrative know-how to deal with complex policies and situations.
The past 100 days were by no means a honeymoon for Lam, though. If surveys are any reference, her popularity rating slipped from 63.7 in July to 56.4, out of 100, last month. The level of no-confidence in her leadership also crept from 34 per cent to 41 per cent. Dissatisfaction with the political situation also jumped nine points to 69 per cent, according to track polls by the University of Hong Kong.
This was partly attributed to the political controversies she inherited from the previous administration. Take the jailing of 16 activists, including three former student leaders of the Occupy protests. Although the appeals were lodged before Lam took the helm, the rulings in the government’s favour inevitably provoked outrage in certain quarters of society. The negative sentiment does nothing for bridging the political divide.
Lam also faces renewed tension arising from the proposed joint checkpoints at the cross-border high-speed railway terminus at West Kowloon, and increasingly vocal demands of a minority in favour of independence. As chief executive, she needs to better bridge Hong Kong with Beijing.
No less daunting are the tasks of providing affordable housing for the people and catching up on the global trend of developing innovation and technology. The former has already seen some progress, with the establishment of a task force to help boost land supply and an interim housing scheme for those in the queue for public flats. But results on the innovation front still leave much to be desired, despite the setting up of a dedicated policy bureau.
Lam’s 100-day milestone will be followed by her first policy address on Wednesday. The blueprint will give an indication of how well prepared she is to rise to the challenges ahead.