Policy Making Systems

Reading : Charles Lindblom :Policy Making Process

2 major types :

UK system

US system

UK system
Centralized system (central supervison)

UK, Australia, New Zealand, India etc

Socialist countries (China)

Political system :

Prime Minister


Parliament controlled by ruling party

Prime Minister is the head of the party that wins election

Prime minister selects his/her cabinet

the ruling party controls the majority of seats in parliament

The cabinet initiates almost all bills

almost all bills are passed by the parliament because the ruling party controls the majority of the seats

occasionally bills are introduced by the opposition, but chances of that passing are slim

Strong executive government

if a bill is defeated in parliament, the government will have to resign

advantages :


government can be more innovative

US system

Committee system

System of mutual adjustment

decentralized system

fragmented system

2 chamber system : Equal power between the House of Representatives and the Senate

A system of committees exist under each chamber

House committees, House subcommittees

Senate committees, Senate subcommittees

20 house committees and 15 senate committees (eg foreign relations committee, finance committee etc)

Bills comes from either the administration or one of the committees

all bills must receive support from both house and senate

tradition is that if the committee agrees then the house or the senate will tend also to agree

Each committee elects a chairman

if the chairman agrees, the committee would normally agrees

chairman appoints subcommittee chairman and members

recommendations of subcommittees are normally supported by the committee chairman

A more fragmented system

powers are shared by many persons (committee and subcommittee chairmen

very time consuming

controversial bills are killed at the committee stage

a delegated system (congress delegates to the committee; the committee delegates to the chairman)

Advantages :

the administration cannot dominate the system

only bills that receive wide support can be passed

Disadvantages :

time consuming

very political (trading favours)

The Hong Kong Policy Making System

Before 1991, Hong Kong had a highly centralized system

almost all bills were unanimously approved by Leg Co.

all Leg Co members were appointed by the governor

most Ex Co members were senior Leg Co members

From 1991 to 1997

some elected members in Leg Co

Ex Co members were no longer appointed from senior Leg Co members

degree of centralization became diluted

After 1997

Leg Co dominated by 3 major parties :

DP, Liberals, DAB

2 of which are "pro-government"

Ex Co members are separately

appointed by the CE

degree of centralization also diluted

Almost all bills are introduced by the government

private members bills are rare

the committee system in Hong Kong is not the same as that in the US

the Hong Kong Leg Co passively vets bills by the government; unlike their US committees which also introduce bills

It is not uncommon for Leg Co to vote down government’s bills

If more directly elected seats were to be introduced, that would further weaken the centralized policy making system