The chief executive needs more time to understand the workings of the government before he can carry out his vision for the city, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said. Speaking on a radio programme yesterday, Lam said Leung was not a civil servant, and he needed "additional time to understand the workings of the government". "The new government needs to incorporate new perspectives, professional knowledge and foreign experience to meet new targets," Lam said. The chief secretary said the challenges before Leung were greater than what the previous chief executives had faced. "Leung has been facing more hurdles than the former chief executives … due to deep-rooted social problems, constant bickering in the legislature and public expectations fuelled by his election platform." Lam was asked whether the role of civil servants had been sidelined by Leung's decision to set up 16 committees to study the feasibility of his initiatives. Among the announced committees are ones to examine standard working hours, free kindergarten education and the development of traditional Chinese medicine. Lam dismissed the suggestion, saying: "Our civil servants have been actively supporting the work of our chief executive and ministers." But former secretary for civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping criticised Leung's policy address as "big" and "hollow". He also raised doubts on the need to set up more than a dozen committees. "Leung's policy address had no agenda or clear direction. He only rolled out a big, hollow blueprint but dared not give details on how he would implement the policy. "And is it necessary to set up so many committees? It gives us a perception that Leung is not competent enough to carry out his duties." According to the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, the public sentiment index had fallen over the past 13 months. A survey conducted from December 31 last year to January 13 found the public sentiment index level was at 81.9, out of a possible 200, down 4.7 from December 2011. Jazz Ma, the information technology manager for the programme, said: "Hong Kong's PSI turned bad in early January, mainly due to peoples' poor appraisal of the social environment. But Ma cautioned that the effect of the policy address would not be reflected in the new polling.