Good progress over approval of funding an example for all
Hong Kong public works projects and the city’s budget have been passed with little wrangling and this bodes well for the future, but leader Carrie Lam will still face challenges ahead
Ask anyone about their impression of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong and the answer is likely to be inefficient, chaotic or even dysfunctional.
This is hardly surprising, given the relationship between pan-democrat lawmakers and former chief executive Leung Chun-ying was anything but good. Thankfully, the situation appears to be improving under the leadership of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
If figures released by Lam are any reference, Legco had already approved public work projects worth HK$68 billion by March. This came after she had expressed concern over the slow progress of funding in the initial months and reshuffled priorities with lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
The two subcommittees overseeing public works spending and government headcounts were said to have held 82 hours of extra meetings as a result. It is estimated that the amount of public works funding approved by Legco this year will top HK$170 billion, the highest in five years. This is a refreshing outcome.
Earlier, the government budget was approved with relatively less wrangling. The prevailing political atmosphere is seemingly less tense as well, with some pan-democrat lawmakers joining an inspection tour of the “Greater Bay Area” in April.
All these are signs of positive change. It shows that officials and lawmakers can put aside political differences and work together. For too long the public has been fed up with incessant confrontation and bickering. They need to be reassured that the legislature is the place to get things done, and that their elected members are there to serve.
Lam, a veteran public servant, pledged to narrow the political divide when she took over the helm last year. Although the relationship between the executive and the legislative branches still leaves much to be desired, Lam, to her credit, has somewhat eased the tension that has plagued the city’s governance in recent years.
It is tempting to give her a pat on the back, but it will not be all plain sailing. The occasional chaotic scenes inside the legislative chamber, as shown in the scrutiny of the controversial joint checkpoint plan for the cross-border high-speed rail link, are evidence that unruly behaviour has taken root in our parliamentary culture. A heated debate is expected when the relevant bill is later put to a final vote.
Our political structure is designed in such a way that the legislature may not rubber stamp everything tabled by the administration. That said, the city’s governance will be seriously hampered if the two branches cannot cooperate effectively. The good progress over funding approval is an example that both sides can work together for the good of Hong Kong.