Chief executive’s policy address 2017

In break with tradition, Carrie Lam to keep maiden policy speech short and answer more questions

Hong Kong leader plans to keep address under an hour to give more time to answer concerns

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 4:59pm

Hong Kong’s leader will break with tradition in her maiden policy address, delivering a shorter speech to devote more time to answer questions.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is expected to spend less than an hour on Wednesday’s speech – a drastic change from her predecessor Leung Chun-ying, whose final address in January lasted for nearly two hours.

Similar to a state of the nation address, the annual policy address at the Legislative Council allows Hong Kong’s chief executive to present a policy blueprint to lawmakers that they hope to achieve during their administration.

Analysts have said Lam’s speech is expected to focus on tax reforms, funding for education and elderly services, and fixing the city’s housing shortage.

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While her speech may have a shorter running time, that did not mean she will skim over details, Executive Council convener Bernard Chan, who is an adviser to Lam, said. Instead, he said, the more concise speech will keep the focus on her priorities for the next five years.

Chan said he expected large swathes of Lam’s speech to centre on helping young, first-time buyers in Hong Kong achieve home ownership as well as strengthening retirement protection

as well as strengthening the retirement protection by cancelling the Mandatory Provident Fund offset mechanism, which allows employers to use money put into staff retirement funds to offset severance and long service payments.

Chan said he had suggested keeping the policy speech short and inspirational – an idea echoed by other members and eventually adopted by Lam, who is writing the speech herself.

“It should be a message from the bottom of her heart to all Hong Kong people,” Chan said.

Chinese newspaper Sing Tao Daily, quoting sources, reported that the condensed address will draw on themes from her campaign such as the “hope and happiness” initiatives, including land, housing, and innovation and technology.

Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Polytechnic University, said the move was likely made because Lam wanted to make a sweeping introduction to five years of policymaking in a limited time frame.

“Another reason is that in this day and age, there really is no need to read it out all in one go. There will be ample opportunity for her to comment and talk about it throughout the day,” he said.

Most people would also be able to access the entire document on their mobile phone or computer, unlike when copies were not as easily accessible and everything had to go on the record.

“Shortening it to brief summaries could make it easier for the public to understand and take in. It is acceptable.”

Chung said the length of policy addresses varied between chief executives. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s were also relatively brief and kept to about an hour, while Leung preferred to have every single detail elaborated in his addresses, leading to speeches – like the one in 2016 – long enough to require an intermission.

Carrie Lam’s policy address must resonate beyond the echo chamber of the legislature

This is not the first change Lam has made to the format of the policy address. Under Leung, the date of the address was changed from October to January. Lam said in July that she decided to change the date back to October to allow legislators more time to consider her policies.

The cover of the address is expected to be blue, similar to her campaign colours, and will be void of any special designs. Full versions of the address in soft and hard copies will be available for the public.

An afternoon press conference will be extended from 45 minutes to 75 minutes, while Lam will attend a forum organised by major digital media outlets. A briefing with executives of major media outlets was cancelled to leave more time to “avoid repetition”, Sing Tao Daily reported.

A radio interview on Thursday is also expected to be extended from one hour to about 90 minutes, according to the newspaper. She will then take about 90 minutes of questions from Legco members.

Writing on Facebook on Sunday, Lam said the address will include measures that will allow the city’s innovation and technology sector to “catch up” with global trends.

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“Technological applications can inject new energy into Hong Kong’s economy, and help us solve social problems. They can create more quality job opportunities for young people ... but it needs the government’s push and support,” she said.

With additional reporting by Jeffie Lam