Transport, Housing in revamp focus

The chief executive has hinted at a major government reorganization in her fifth and last policy address for her first five-year term.

“It’s time now to think about government reorganization in the next policy address,” Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said at her second public consultation session on the October policy address at the Xiqu Centre in the West Kowloon Cultural District yesterday.

She said she inherited the current structure from the previous government and at that time, the political situation did not allow her to do a revamp.

A total of 115 people, 50 of them in person and 65 via Zoom, attended the public consultation yesterday.

The Transport and Housing Bureau might be revamped under Lam’s plan, as it has come under criticism.

Lam was asked if she would consider reorganizing the housing and development bureaus due to their inefficient cooperation.

Another asked if there will be a special department on art technology.

Lam said the government needs to think about whether it has the best structure to handle a number of social issues, including increasing land and housing supplies.

“The current governmental structure was inherited from the previous government because it was impossible to reorganize the government departments in a short time and find suitable ministers at that time,” Lam said.

“Since stability has returned to society, the electoral system has been improved and the Legislative Council is willing to cooperate with the government’s work, it’s time to think about how to reorganize the government’s bureaus boldly and decisively.”

Lam said she understands people have a consensus on having a specific bureau for Hong Kong’s cultural work and their call for closer cooperation between departments on land and housing issues.

The reshuffle Lam hinted at may also signal her intention to seek a second term as her government will be in office for less than a year and may not have time for the reshuffle until after the election is held for the chief executive in March.

Commentator Derek Yuen Mi-chang yesterday said that Lam is signaling her intention to run in the chief executive race in March with her hint that a revamp is in the works.

Yuen also said how the government reorganizes the departments would show the authorities’ future strategy.

Lawmaker Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan, from the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said she believed the Transport and Housing Bureau should be separated because both housing and transport are huge issues and it is difficult for one bureau to handle both.

Quat said she would not speculate on whether Lam will seek a second term, but she said the proposal of reorganizing government departments will be beneficial to the next government as it will have the policy basis for a restructure.

Lam also said in the consultation yesterday that the government has to work harder on educating local youngsters as people said some were being incited to oppose the central government.

Everyone needs to return to the origins of the one country, two systems principle, she said, adding that “one country” is the basis of the principle, but Hong Kong’s advantage is its own system.

The government has also come up with changes in education, including the launch of the citizenship and social development subject this March, Lam said, so teenagers could have a better idea of national concepts and values.

The government will also try to attract talent from the mainland and overseas and will soon announce a policy package on how to attract talent with Shenzhen authorities. A one-stop platform will be set up to help people understand more about working, studying and retiring in the Greater Bay Area.

Lam also urged people to get vaccinated so the city can discuss reopening the borders with the mainland, but the government will not make vaccination mandatory at the moment.

The SAR has been lobbying mainland authorities to resume quarantine-free travel, Lam said.

“Some Western democratic countries have started to think about compulsory vaccination because there is no other way to let people get vaccinated. But I think we should give our encouraging promotion of vaccination more time to see whether more Hongkongers will choose to get the jab,” Lam said.

“In Hong Kong, there is always a backlash when the government forces people to do something.”

Mainland authorities never forced people to get vaccinated, but mainlanders got the jab because of their social responsibilities, Lam said, stressing the quality of the people is crucial.

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