The next six to nine months will be a "critical period" for Leung Chun-ying's administration, according to his top adviser.
Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said the embattled chief executive must deliver concrete measures if he is to achieve the targets set out in the policy goals he outlined in his maiden policy address.
If he did not, Leung could see his public support fall further. He could even risk encountering a governability crisis if he failed to include solid actions, policies and timetables in his framework when he delivered his second policy blueprint.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Lam admitted that Leung's political capacity to press ahead with tough policy agendas would be constrained by his flagging popularity.
"The difficult situation is already a given for the chief executive and I cannot see any short cut to suddenly make a breakthrough … and boost his popularity," Lam said. "So [what he can do is] deliver, talk to the people and build consensus."
Breaking with tradition, Leung delayed his first policy address from October until last month. The government has yet to decide when his second policy blueprint will be unveiled.
The latest poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, released on January 31, revealed that 45 per cent of Hong Kong people were dissatisfied with Leung's policy address - making it one of the worst-received policy addresses since the handover.
However, Lam fended off criticism that the address failed to come up with measures to tackle burning issues such as housing and poverty in the short run.
"A policy address is never a tool to boost popularity for the government in the short term. Instead, it should be an occasion to spell out the government's vision," he said.
Lam suggested that the most memorable policy addresses were those that set out long-term visions for the city and delivered them. For example, former governor Murray MacLehose's policy speech in 1972 and former governor Chris Patten's in 1992.
"I don't know whether C. Y. Leung's policy address will have such a legacy in the next 20 years," Lam said. "But at least he is honest with you, that he … is prepared to face a number of thorny and deep-rooted issues, which the previous [Tung and Tsang] administrations were not prepared to face, did not address or chose to avoid," Lam said.
"Even for those people who hate Leung bitterly, please bear the interests of the people in mind … At the end of the day, you can continue to hate him, but Hong Kong could benefit [from Leung's governance].
"Moreover, poverty alleviation, elderly care, environmental protection and housing issues are matters for the decades to come … this is our common business, so we can do it together or sink it together."
Lam, who will step down as Equal Opportunities Commission chairman next month, also urged legislators and district councillors to drop their short-sightedness and "not-in-my-backyard" mentality, so the administration could have time to deliver, especially in solving housing shortages.
"In [Leung's] second policy address, [he] will have much less room. Obviously, people will ask 'where's the beef?' or at least 'what is the beef going to look like?'," Lam said. "By then even I will be looking at how much he can deliver … If it is still vague, it will be bad, and the disappointment will be very widespread."