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SCA: Effective governance key to Hong Kong's continued success

The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, today (September 26) said that governance would be a very important agenda of the HKSAR Government over the next two years or so, in addition to promoting economic development and dealing with the systems for electing the Chief Executive (CE) in 2007 and the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2008.

Speaking at a forum organised by the SynergyNet, Mr Lam said, "One of the key factors of Hong Kong's continued success lies in the Government being able to deliver effective governance in the long term."

"The Accountability System was introduced in July 2002 as a very important institutional reform to improve governance.

"The new system provides the CE with the flexibility to form a governing team of his choice, and preserves the political neutrality of the civil service.

"The system also meets growing public aspirations for a more open and accountable public administration."

Mr Lam said that, however, like all major political reforms elsewhere, the Accountability System needed time to evolve and develop.

"What we will do over the next few years is to improve the operation of the system in the light of the experience gained.

"We will focus on the political work of the Principal Officials by strengthening our linkage with the districts and the relevant sectors and organisations.

"We will also make better use of the existing system of advisory boards and committees to keep a close tap on public opinion, to improve our policy-making capabilities."

Turning to other key elements of improved governance, Mr Lam expected that political parties would continue to assume an important role in Hong Kong's constitutional development.

He said that the Government would broaden the scope for political parties to participate in public affairs so that they could accumulate operational experience. This, in turn, would be conducive to their long-term development.

The "$10 per vote" financial subsidy scheme introduced for the 2004 LegCo election was very much contemplated with this in mind.

Mr Lam also shared with the audience his observations about the 2004 LegCo election.

"Both the number of candidates contesting in the election and that of registered voters turning out to vote have reached record highs, demonstrating how much the community values the democratic process.

"Different people will probably draw different conclusions from the election results, but one thing is quite clear - we now have a more diverse legislature in which different shades of opinion are represented, reflecting the wide spectrum of political opinion held by the 1.78 million voters and the Hong Kong community."

Mr Lam said that the Government would pursue three main directions to strengthen the working relationship with the new LegCo.

"Firstly, Principal Officials will review their working priorities to tie in with the overall policy agenda of the Government as mentioned above.

"We hope to provide the public with a clear policy agenda. We will also ensure better coordination between different policy areas and avoid overloading the community with too many controversial issues at any one time.

"Secondly, whenever practicable, we will consult LegCo Members on new government proposals as early as possible so that their views will have been taken into account in the process of policy formulation.

"Thirdly, we will adopt an inclusive lobbying strategy in that we will try to lobby for the support of all LegCo Members, irrespective of their political background."

Mr Lam said that the Government's strategy was not only to win enough votes to ensure the passage of the government bills or budgetary proposals, but to ensure that government proposals had broad-based support within and outside the legislature.

In relation to the constitutional development beyond 2007, Mr Lam said that the public consultation for the third report by the Constitutional Development Task Force was still on-going.

As at present, the views received by the Task Force through various channels could be categorised into three main aspects.

He said, "Firstly, there are views which support increasing the size of the Election Committee, and expanding the electorate of the Committee.

"Secondly, there are views which support broadening the franchise of the functional constituencies.

"Thirdly, some people are supportive of maintaining the number of LegCo seats at 60, but relatively more views consider that the number of seats should be increased."
In conclusion, Mr Lam said that the election for the third term LegCo demonstrated that the Hong Kong community and people cared about and were willing to participate in public affairs.

"Furthermore, in relation to the two electoral methods in 2007 and 2008 respectively, we should make good use of the room available to us to further open up the systems.

"The electoral systems aside, the Government will continue to canvass public opinion and strengthen cooperation between the executive and legislative authorities in other areas," he said.

Ends/Sunday, September 26, 2004