Tung Chee-hwa was not exaggerating yesterday when he said his administration faced huge problems as it tried to find a way out of the current political impasse. Over the summer months, the embattled chief executive must strive to restore the public's confidence in him and his team. This will require rebuilding trust, injecting new blood into the cabinet and presenting a convincing vision of Hong Kong's future. This will not be easy, but here are some ideas he might consider. There is strong public expectation that the chief executive will reshuffle his team. But this will be tough in the short term: he hardly has a queue forming outside his office. So he needs to buy some time. A first step would be to announce he will give a mini policy address, in the traditional slot in October. He could promise that he would then disclose how he intends to reorganise his team and revitalise our city, in the wake of last week's giant march and last night's much smaller rally. It would provide him some breathing space while refocusing attention on Hong Kong's efforts to emerge from the impact of the Sars outbreak and the economic slump - and to become a better place in which to live and work. But he must also face up to one critical issue: he needs to change the way he governs, heeding the lessons from the July 1 rally. Without that, any new policy blueprint would likely be treated with scepticism. A ministerial reshuffle is clearly needed as a means of restoring faith in the government. The position of Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who personifies the inflexible handling of the national security laws, has become untenable. Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung, discredited by his ill-judged purchase of a car before vehicle tax rises in the budget, should already have gone. It would be premature to remove health chief Yeoh Eng-kiong, but he should be taken off the inquiry into the handling of Sars so that an independent investigation can take place. NEW FACES That would pave the way for new faces to be brought in. Those joining the ruling team should, ideally, be experienced and talented administrators. This, however, presents immediate problems. The government is already playing down expectations of a reshuffle - underlining how hard it is to persuade top people to join the administration. There is a way of dealing with this, which might also have the advantage of overcoming people's concerns about Mr Tung's shortcomings as a leader, while providing the ruling team with a more effective structure. It is an idea which this newspaper has suggested before. Mr Tung should consider giving responsibility for the day-to-day running of Hong Kong to a senior minister, while adopting a more elevated role for himself. The relationship between the two could be rather like that of the president and prime minister in other countries. In France, for example, the president steps back from the daily grind and takes responsibility for such matters as dealing with foreign governments and acting as guardian of the constitution. The prime minister, meanwhile, has the job of driving, co-ordinating and executing policy. Adapting arrangements like these to Hong Kong need not involve going outside the framework provided by the Basic Law. It would amount to a modification of the 'accountability system'. Mr Tung would remain chief executive with all the responsibilities given to him by the mini-constitution, but would rely far more heavily on the senior minister concerned in carrying out his duties. Here there is a problem, however, for the person best qualified to play that role is Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. Mr Tung would have to learn to place greater trust in his colleague. It would be naive to expect this to come naturally, but the issue confronting Mr Tung is the future success of his administration. The chief executive will be as good, or as bad, as his team. Mr Tsang is a career civil servant who commands respect at home and overseas. He is a proven administrator who, through his intervention in the stock market during the Asian financial crisis, showed he can make tough decisions. His civil service background provides him with the political experience and acumen which appointees from the private sector tend to lack. BROADRE PICTURES If the ministers were to report to Mr Tsang in the first instance, with the chief secretary then reporting to Mr Tung, it would leave the chief executive free to focus on dealing with the mainland (perhaps maintaining closer supervision of departments involved with Hong Kong's links to the central authorities); promoting Hong Kong; and keeping in view the broader pictures of the city's progress and his government's performance. Such a move would make it easier to attract fresh talent, especially former civil servants, into the ministerial ranks, opening the way for a cabinet reshuffle and providing the 'accountability system' with the stability, integrity, experience and judgment it needs. With such a system in place, the government's ability to embark on an energetic and innovative policy programme would be enhanced. Broadening our economic base will be vital in the years ahead. Lessons learned from Sars could be a useful starting point. The success of our medical schools in being among the first to isolate and identify the mystery virus demonstrated their potential. It suggests there is a future for Hong Kong as a regional centre of excellence in the medical field, both in research and treatment. We should work hard to achieve this, seeking to form partnerships with leading institutions worldwide, while developing a centre for disease control. A similar approach could be adopted to education. There is no reason why Hong Kong should not work together with top institutions overseas to develop internationally renowned schools and colleges dealing with everything from academic research to the teaching of more practical skills such as those in the catering, hotel, and tourism trades. SENSE OF DIRECTION Further integration with the mainland will be essential to securing a rebound in our economic fortunes. One important new project which might be announced if Mr Tung opted for a mini policy address might be the bridge to Zhuhai and Macau. The government could also consider making it easier for mainland people to enter Hong Kong, to further boost the economy. The introduction of the smart ID card might help here. Getting government finances back into good shape will also be important in helping a revival. Cutting the size of government should be on the agenda, as should a broadening of the tax base. The important political factor for Mr Tung is not popularity, but giving a sense of direction. After admitting the challenges facing his administration, Mr Tung again promised yesterday to respond to the aspirations of the people. He should now be working on the substance of his response, not just the rhetoric.