Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has criticised Carrie Lam’s attempts to pad the civil service with “promotion jobs” and called out the government’s “silo mentality” as stifling progress.
In an exclusive interview with RTHK radio show Wham Bam Tram!, Ip said departments were clearly not talking to each other on major projects such as Lantau Tomorrow and Highway 11.
The Hong Kong island lawmaker cited as an example the Yau Ma Tei lockdowns in January this year, which exposed the unsanitary conditions of many blocks in the area.
“You would see Vivian Lau, the [then]-director of FEHD [Food and Environmental Hygiene Department] saying ‘but we are only responsible for these public areas’,” said Ip. “Or if you want to have a fallen tree removed, you need to bring several departments together to find out who is responsible. Depending on where the tree falls if could be Highways, Home Affairs, Housing.”
“It’s the way our government has always been organised: on functional lines and with this civil servant mentality of not taking on extra work,” she said.
Ip called out the government’s plans to add more directorate-level posts as “empire building”, citing as examples the Highways Department’s walkability initiatives and a new department for monitoring MTR projects.
“I always thinks these are just promotion posts for civil servants, make the staff happy, from my civil service experience,” she said.
“The government told us they didn’t need to create too many posts for ground troops [for the Highways walkability project], which only fuelled our conspiracy theory that those are only promotion posts for senior guys,” she said, calling Carrie Lam’s padding of the civil service “empire building”.
“The government has been creating too many directorate-levels posts – six for Highways, EPD [Environmental Protection Department] suggested nine, there were a whole flurry of post creation requests to LegCo, 6,000 posts created… Mrs Lam [Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor] has been very generous,” said Ip.
Ip rebutted claims the legislature had become a “rubber-stamp parliament” since the mass-resignation of the pan-dem camp, saying she wouldn’t blindly follow government proposals.
“I didn’t vote for Lantau Tomorrow,” she said. “I didn’t like the government’s idea that we could recoup the expenditure by land sales, that means you are forever trapped in high land-price, high home values. And they refuse to take into account the very likely delays caused by judicial reviews. I think the government’s blueprint is not realistic.”
Ip also talked about the traffic situation in Hong Kong, specifically in her constituency and home neighbourhood of Bowen Road which, she says, mirrors a citywide problem of people having to compete with motor vehicles for available space. “We all have to lean on the wall like Batman or Batwoman to allow the cars to pass,” she said.
Ip said something like a moratorium or electronic road pricing was required but that the government was afraid of making tough decisions. “Singapore slapped a moratorium, our government would never dare do such a thing.”
At the same time she said the government’s previous approach of not providing enough parking was a failure.
“People do need cars,” she said. “If you live in Tuen Mum, Gold Coast, that sort of area, the public transport system is not that satisfactory. And people buy cars because they cannot afford to buy homes. You can buy a car, take your girlfriend out for a joyride, it will give you a sense of freedom, you own something. But our government is never keen to take tough decisions.”
When asked if she was considering a run at the Chief Executive job in the next election, Ip said it was “a very tough job. My daughter has advised me to have nothing to do with it.”
The Wham Bam Tram! interview aired on Saturday night on AM621 and RTHK Channel 7.