New deputies must be seen as neutral and not limited to a few bureaus

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 June, 2012, 12:00am


Designing Hong Kong supports the restructuring proposals put forward by the chief executive-elect.

They are generally in line with recommendations made by many people during the discussions over enhancing governance that we have participated in over the last decade.

In 2004, in our report Designing Hong Kong Harbour District, we recommended that a deputy chief secretary be appointed to oversee issues that cross over to different departments. With our work for the harbourfront enhancement committee, Harbourfront Commission, and district councils, we are acutely aware of the need to increase resources at the policy level.

We are glad we are finally moving ahead after years of frustration with a lack of capacity and innovation.

As we enter a stage where there will be a large staff turnover in the ageing civil service, we support an expansion at the bureau level. Our only concern is that the present proposal for the deputies of the financial secretary and chief secretary unnecessarily complicates the organisation structure.

We see these deputies as being responsible for the development and implementation of new policies across bureaus and departments, and responsible for redirecting existing resources and budgets behind new common short-term or long-term goals under different themes.

Some of our favourite themes are - readying the city for an ageing population; readying the ageing population for Hong Kong; harbourfront enhancement; and vibrant streets, making it enjoyable for people to walk further and longer.

These and other ideas are designed to break through departmental inertia and deliver a better Hong Kong for all.

The deputies should be tasked with co-ordinating the administration's resources behind such themes and campaigns. They should rally the troops so they can identify the administrative, legislative and funding amendments required, to pursue implementation and then to move on to the next theme and campaign.

A core responsibility of the deputies should be to enable co-operation among all bureaus and departments. They should step in when a project stalls and be willing to tell- ff officials when they get petty-minded and insist on their own established procedures and guidelines. Deputies should be seen as neutral, and not favoured by or limited to a few bureaus.

Such a restriction would create unnecessary layers and obstacles.

Paul Zimmerman, chief executive, Designing Hong Kong