Carrie Lam’s cabinet short on diversity but rich in experience
Chief executive-elect’s appointees have to prove themselves and help the new leader deliver on her election promises
With just nine days to go before her term begins, chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday unveiled the long-awaited line-up for her administration. As widely reported, the team is almost exclusively drawn from within the bureaucracy. While it falls short of her promise for a more diverse slate, the rich experience and knowledge of the appointees in government operations is expected to help them settle into their jobs quickly and get on with real business.
If previous news reports are any reference, some individuals may not have been Lam’s first choice. Eleven of the 16 political appointees are already in Leung Chun-ying’s administration, four of whom are promoted from the deputy ministerial ranks. Four others have been picked from the top echelons of the civil service. The only outsider, former Democratic Party legislator and academic Law Chi-kwong, will head the Labour and Welfare Bureau.
The composition underlines the difficulties in recruiting talent from outside the government. Indeed, Lam did not shy away from talking about the challenges. Shortly after winning the post on March 26, she revealed that she had had a nightmare about securing enough people to swear in on July 1. Yesterday, she would not be drawn on the difficulties encountered, but was adamant that she had formed an ideal team. Whether the public is impressed by the line-up remains to be seen. But the dearth of new blood is compensated for by new commitments to good governance. The team is to follow the principles of being “innovative, interactive, collaborative”. These are much needed to bring about the new style of governance promised by Lam.
We trust Lam and her colleagues realise that the public perception of government performance still leaves much to be desired. Those who have been reappointed must therefore redouble their efforts in tackling the challenges ahead. The four lifted from the civil service also need to demonstrate greater political skills and accountability in their new roles. Instead of simply executing policy decisions, they will now be problem solvers.
During a three-hour media session, the appointees took turns to field a wide range of questions, from the enactment of a national security law to livelihood-related issues. They will be judged by their ability to resolve the deep-seated problems in their portfolios. As Lam rightly said, new thinking would be needed.
She said she had put in place a “practical team conversant with government operations and with rich administrative experience”. That makes public expectations even higher. The appointees have to prove themselves and help the new leader deliver accordingly.