What Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor needs to do urgently is rebuild the trust of Hong Kong people in herself and the administration. This cannot be achieved merely by formulating appropriate social or economic policies or by giving handouts to Hong Kong people. We need a chief executive who really cares about the people, talks their talk, upholds their core values and most importantly trusts the people.
It would be a mistake if Lam thinks she will win people’s support by proposing good policies. The experience of the current government has proved the contrary, as its efforts in land development and poverty alleviation have not boosted the popularity of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Paul Chan Mo-po at all over the past five years.
“Connect” is the right word, but the problem is with whom. Lam should exert extra effort to meet and listen to the views of those who did not have votes in the chief executive election, not those who have voted for her or the other two candidates.
People’s discontent comes from an unfair political system and the inequality resulting from it. Lam could gain people’s trust if she could truly reflect to Beijing the public demand for universal suffrage, defend the freedom and rights of Hong Kong people and uphold the principle of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong”.
There are many civil society organisations which Lam and her future administration could look to find the views of the general public. The government should recognise their positions and engage them proactively in statutory and advisory bodies and in policy-making and public consultation processes.
A strong civil society may challenge the government’s decisions from time to time, but it will also enhance governance in the long run and build a sustainable society.
On the other hand, there are many policy areas which require the attention and commitment of Lam and her future cabinet.
Poverty is a serious problem in Hong Kong, and the group of people most hit are low-income families who have to pay high rents for a small and unsafe subdivided unit.
While the government should continue to build more public rental and subsidised housing, the situation won’t be improved in the short run and the average waiting time for public rental housing will continue to increase in coming years. The government should adopt more short-term measures, including the provision of transitional housing.
Population ageing is a challenge which demands great public attention. A good retirement protection system should ensure that every retiree is capable of maintaining a reasonable living standard, but the measures proposed by Lam and the current administration are far from satisfactory.
The availability of quality long-term care services is another big concern. Among other things, the government should seriously consider the introduction of long-term public care insurance.
The lump-sum grant subvention system has caused a lot of conflict in the welfare sector, and this should be reviewed immediately. While there is a need to increase the level of subvention, the demand for safeguarding the quality of services and the interests of service users and social welfare personnel should be properly addressed.
Chua Hoi-wai is chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service