Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping has pledged to employ his expertise as a physician to build a healthy and self-confident society. Dr Ho, a prominent ophthalmologist who officially took up his ministerial post yesterday, said: 'Hong Kong is suffering from a lot of minor illnesses now. It's by no means serious. I hope it will get stronger [at the end of a five-year term]. 'I hope people will regain their self-confidence, rebuild their can-do spirit, and have a sense of neighbourhood and identity as Hong Kong people.' Dr Ho, who was a lecturer at the Chinese University before he entered private practice in 1994, maintained he had kept in close touch with the pulse and sentiments of society - partly through his patients. 'As a doctor, I listened to my patients' problems. A lot of them are also friends, who expressed all sorts of grievances about society and the government,' he said. 'Most middle-class friends complain about the lack of channels for them to express their views. 'The Home Affairs Bureau will become the conduit of dialogue between the government and the people . . . We have a string of different issues, but there's a common thread. 'We deal with issues that are directly related to daily life of people. We work to enhance quality of life and solve the people's problems.' He promised to streamline and reinvigorate the 300-strong consultative committee system. The appointment of Dr Ho, who was a former chairman of the Arts Development Council, has been greeted with criticism and doubts from various sectors, including arts and sports. Some legislators have questioned whether he has enough political acumen to deal with controversial issues such as soccer betting and village elections. But concluding his first walkabout that took him to Tuen Mun and Wong Tai Sin, he said: 'Throughout the whole morning, I heard one voice from the people: they want jobs. This will be first and foremost task of the whole government.' Tight-lipped about his views on soccer betting, Dr Ho said the public had 'given a clear direction of their thoughts' on what they want the government to do, but declined to go any further. Officials have noted that opinion polls show more people now support making soccer betting legal.