LCQ5: Performance of the Government

     Following is a question by the Hon Hon Lee Wing-tat and a reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Henry Tang, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):


     An opinion poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong in June this year has revealed that the governance crisis of the Hong Kong Government continues to deepen and recent incidents concerning unauthorised building works, Jeremy Godfrey, the foul start of the Chief Executive election campaigns and disputes over the "real estate hegemony", etc. have eroded the Government's credibility. The aforesaid opinion poll has also showed that the Chief Executive (CE)'s support rating stands at 46.5 marks, which is not only a record low since his assumption of office as CE but is even lower than the ratings scored by his predecessor, putting him under the category of "depressing" performance, and among all politically appointed officials, no official falls under the category of "ideal" performer any more. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has reviewed why the popularity rating of the incumbent CE is even lower than that of his predecessor; if it has, of the reasons for the low popularity rating, and whether it will adopt any measure to alleviate public grievances; if it has not, the reasons for that; and

(b) whether it has reviewed what blunders in policy implementation the Government made in the past six years; if it has, of the blunders it made, and whether it will apologise for the blunders to all members of the public of Hong Kong; if it has not conducted any review, the reasons for that?



     The Administration's reply to the question raised by the Hon Lee Wing-tat is as follows:

     A meaningful evaluation of government performance should be based on facts and reason. Only then could the merits and demerits be analysed and evaluated objectively and rationally, and the reasons properly identified. Past experience helps us implement improved policies and initiatives to address the inadequacies and raise the standard of governance.

     The opinion polls on Government policies and governance conducted by various organisations serve as useful reference to help us understand the views of the public. However, opinion polls are not without limitations given the complexity of our society. Thus, apart from drawing reference to opinion polls, we also need to solicit public views and opinions through various consultation channels within the institutional set-up, including the Legislative Council, District Councils and various advisory bodies and consultation processes, through various forms of media, such as media reports and commentaries, phone-in programmes and on-line discussion forums, as well as through district visits where we can talk to people direct and listen to their views.

     The priority of the current-term Government can be summed up as promotion of economic development, improvement of people's livelihood, and further pursuit of democracy. Over the past four years, the Government team under the leadership of the Chief Executive has always borne in mind the principle of people-based governance. We have been working in concerted efforts with full dedication.

     Sharing the same boat, we have pulled together the effort of our seven million fellow citizens to withstand the huge impacts of the international financial crisis. We have protected enterprises, saved jobs and successfully maintained the stability of our financial system, economy and society, amid the financial turmoil. We have also turned crisis into opportunities and enhanced the competitiveness of Hong Kong.

     We have been making efforts to foster economic diversification. Active steps have been taken to develop Renminbi offshore business, further enriching the business diversity of Hong Kong as an international financial centre and enhancing our competitiveness. We have been striving to build a consensus in the community for promoting the development of the six industries.

     To tie in with the trend of rapid development of the Mainland, we have actively participated in the National 12th Five-Year Plan and greatly deepened our co-operation with Guangdong so as to set clearer positioning and targets for Hong Kong's long-term development, and open up more sustainable development prospects for Hong Kong.

     We have also expedited the commencement of a number of long pending major infrastructure projects. In doing so, we have created tens of thousands of job opportunities for the construction trades concerned. Take 2011-12 as an example, the estimated capital works expenditure will reach a record high of over $58 billion and around 63 000 job opportunities will be created. These projects lay the foundation for enhancing the quality of life for the people and the competitiveness of Hong Kong.

     On livelihood issues, we have also devoted immense efforts to help ease the burden of the people, which include introducing fiscal relief measures time and again as permitted by the financial position of the Government. We have successfully implemented the statutory minimum wage, safeguarding a more reasonable level of income for hundreds of thousands of grassroots citizens. Through extensive and in-depth consultations and discussions, we have also fostered a relatively broad-based consensus in the community on the direction of the healthcare reform in Hong Kong in the long run, facilitating its implementation in a step-by-step manner by the current Administration in the remainder of its term and by the next Administration.

     On taking forward the process of democratisation, the Electoral Reform Package for two elections in 2012 was passed in the spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation to pave way for the two elections by universal suffrage to be implemented in 2017 and 2020.

     Some of the initiatives will see immediate effect, while the others will bring more concrete results in future Administrations. However, being a responsible Government accountable to our citizens and our next generations, we will strive to do our best. More importantly, the success of these initiatives lies in the concerted efforts of the Government and the Legislative Council in performing their respective functions, as well as the compromise and consensus reached by our rational and inclusive community at large.

     Of course, as I have just mentioned, public opinions are as diverse as our society is complex. It is especially so in Hong Kong, a pluralistic and liberal community where rising awareness of personal rights amid competing aspirations and heightening expectations towards the Government is posing more and more challenges to policy making.

     Over the past few years, some of the policies introduced were relatively controversial with divergent views in the community. Certain policies were supported by mainstream views but met with strong resistance from some quarters. There were also individual policies which, though introduced with good intentions, needed to be amended in light of public opinions, partly because the possible implications had not been thoroughly thought through. These will inevitably affect public confidence in the Government.

     Meanwhile, the recent phenomenon of global asset-price bubbles, coupled with the trend of Hong Kong transforming into a knowledge-based economy, has accentuated social tension and some long-standing problems of Hong Kong. This has been sharply reflected in the housing and wealth-gap issues, which have in turn created many social problems and caused discontents among the public. We are fully aware of them and have always borne them in mind to spur us on. We have also been thinking profoundly of these issues in our daily work with a view to doing a better job.

     There are inherent structural factors in these issues which are also subject to external influence and involve prioritisation in the allocation of social resources. In solving these issues, we need to take into account whether the policies are reasonable, practicable and sustainable and strive to foster a relatively unanimous consensus in the community. For this reason, there is a certain degree of difficulty for us to achieve quick and visible results through short-term measures.

     The key is to look into the problem and make an effort to find a balanced solution so that the public can see the way forward. With public support, we can get closer to the goal in a steady and progressive manner.

     Take the issue of subsidised home ownership which is a common concern among the public as an example. We are now studying the issue and will give an account in the Policy Address to be delivered in October this year.

     Take wealth gap issue as another example. We are seeking to narrow the gap gradually through our multi-pronged efforts, including implementing statutory minimum wage, expanding the transport subsidy scheme, promoting diversification of our economy to create more jobs at all strata, providing education and training, and keeping on improving the social security system.

     President, we care for the people and take public opinion seriously. Many of the problems we are facing today are difficult and complicated ones, for which there are no completely satisfactory solutions that can satisfy everybody's aspirations and interests. However, I believe that we should always attach the greatest importance to the overall long-term interests of Hong Kong. Only on this basis can we explain our rationale clearly and make it readily acceptable to the public. Besides, we need to make continuous efforts to improve our communication with the community and let the public understand the rationale of the government's policies, the various considerations in our policy direction, how to balance the interests of various sectors of the community, etc. We also need to listen to more views and allow the public to have greater participation in the process.

     Finally, I would like to share a few thoughts with my friends in the Legislative Council. We are in different positions with different roles and responsibilities. Yet, from the perspective of the general public, our common responsibility is to serve the public with practical goals in a practical way for the benefits of the society.
     President, this is the last meeting held in this year's session and in this Chamber.  Having once sat in the bench and now in the Government Despatch Box, I have mixed feelings. I sincerely hope that we will start a new chapter after moving to Tamar, forging a new landscape of less disturbance and more substantive work.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:24