Carrie Lam

How Hong Kong’s next leader Carrie Lam can attract the right talent to her new government

Gary Wong has some ideas for the chief executive-elect to improve governance and get the city back on track, with a credible team around her

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 7:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 9:02pm

Before she formally takes office on July 1, Hong Kong chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor must focus on several tasks, not least assembling a credible cabinet. Here are some suggestions for her to-do list.

Tense executive-legislative relations have never been so evident, stemming largely from the fact that the Executive Council, cabinet and advisory bodies are full of partisans from the pro-establishment faction. To ease the tension, Lam should recruit people with different political views into her governing team.

This is easier said than done, of course, since pan-democrats have in the past shunned any official posts for fear of being labelled pro-establishment. One way to persuade them would be to loosen the system of collective ministerial responsibility. Under this system, all Exco members are obliged to support the government’s bills, even if they disagree with them. Loosening this convention would improve policymaking, and also attract talent from the pan-democratic camp.

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When recruiting, more attention should be paid to people who have stood in elections, who will have a better understanding of people’s needs. In the past, some principal officials have struggled to implement policies due to a lack of political experience. Take Eddie Ng Hak-kim, the Secretary for Education. Not only has he not been through any election, he is also ignorant of how the government operates.

More attention should be paid to people who have stood in elections, who will have a better understanding of people’s needs

By contrast, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing was noted for his environmentally-friendly building designs as an architect, while his deputy, Christine Loh Kung-wai, is a former legislator and founder of a think tank. Their partnership raises the bureau’s professional knowledge and enhances its bargaining power. The next government must seek out people who are politically experienced, or at least professionals with strong networks in relevant fields.

The government should also learn to tap into social media to be better connected to the people it serves. In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has more than a million followers on his Facebook account. Of course, popularity on a social media platform doesn’t necessarily reflect good governance or leadership. But a good communications strategy is essential. More creative media outlets would help officials better convey messages to the people, in particular the younger generation. This could become an alternative to district visits.

In the past few years, we have exhausted ourselves with our ceaseless discord. We all know Hong Kong has gone astray. It is time to get back on track.

Gary Wong Chi-him is governor of the Path of Democracy