【明報專訊】"EVERYTHING is difficult before it is easy", as the saying goes. Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive (CE)-elect, is faced with a mountain of challenges. According to the first opinion survey conducted after the CE election, Carrie Lam's support rating is 55.6 marks, which, though higher than that of Leung Chun-ying five years ago, is significantly lower than Tung Chee-hwa's and Donald Tsang's ratings after their election, meaning that she has got off to a bumpy start.
Carrie Lam was elected as CE on low popularity. According to the latest HKU survey, Carrie Lam's net approval rating is negative 8 percentage points, with 43 per cent of respondents believing that she failed to face the public during her campaign. In other words, Carrie Lam has to do more to drum up public support. That said, it is not necessarily a bad thing to "lose at the starting line". If Carrie Lam does concrete work and pursues new policies after taking office, it is possible for her popularity to rebound. After her election, not only will Carrie Lam put together her governance team, but she has also said repeatedly that she has to improve the relationship between the executive and legislature to demonstrate a new style of governance. Carrie Lam has not only taken the initiative to meet front-line reporters, but also promised to communicate with lawmakers from different parties. Apparently, Carrie Lam wants to show with her action that her leadership style will be different from that of the incumbent government. But the key remains whether she will persevere with such a practice.
There are many vexing, long-standing problems facing different government departments. But it is inadvisable to fight a war on too many fronts recklessly. What the new government has to do is focus on one or two social issues to achieve a consensus on policies. This will break the deadlock, make it easier to implement the policies and fire the opening triumphant salvo, and prove that the new government has the willingness and ability to achieve a consensus and address the needs of citizens and political parties. With the current situation in mind, we believe that it will be easier to achieve cross-party cooperation by focusing on the issue of education.
In her manifesto, Carrie Lam proposed the idea of "new resources for education", i.e. increasing recurrent expenditure on education by $5 billion a year. The money will be used to establish a pay scale for kindergarten teachers, improve the staffing establishment of primary and secondary school teachers, convert short-term contract teaching posts to permanent ones, enhance support for integrated education and special education, upgrade the hardware and software provided for schools, and grant financial aid to secondary school graduates to enable them to pursue degree courses in self-financing tertiary institutions. Improving education standards is not only a demand made by schools and teachers, but also a shared vision of society as a whole. That the next administration is willing to devote more resources to education should make it easier to achieve a consensus on the issue. But some people in the education sector are still worried that the new administration will "make no decision after deliberation" and "take no action after making a decision", and are unsure when the "new resources" will become available. After her election as CE, Carrie Lam said that she would meet with stakeholders in the education sector and lawmakers from different political parties, hoping to achieve a consensus before taking office. This will make it easier for the next administration to report to the Legislative Council how the new resources will be allocated and used and seek the approval of the Legco Finance Committee. If such measures can be implemented as soon as possible, it will of course benefit schools, teachers and students. It will also show the new administration's ability to achieve a consensus and implement policies and prove that cross-party cooperation is not something that elusive. Whether the idea of "new resources on education" can be realised will be a first test for Carrie Lam's administration as well as an important indicator of whether Hong Kong politics will be back on the rational and cooperative track.