• Thu
  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 9:11am

Seeking straight answers from reticent officials

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 2002, 12:00am
 

I wish to share with the public the following (non) answers from three government agencies after repeated requests for a straight answer.


The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) replied on October 2 to my question submitted on September 24, asking how many people with PhDs worked for the authority. The answer was that for 'reasons of privacy, we do not divulge their academic background'.


I find that peculiar. Why should the number of PhDs in a public institution become a matter of 'privacy'? It is certainly not an invasion of privacy to know whether a Joe Smith in the authority has a PhD from, say, Oxford, while a Jean Smith only has a BA from Hong Kong University. Incidentally, if I were to discover that piece of 'private' information and publish it, would I be subject to persecution under Article 23?


The research department at the HKMA has 20 professionals, but they have apparently not published any studies on the sensitivities of Hong Kong's exports and imports (known as demand and supply elasticities) to exchange rate changes based on past history. That too seems odd for the world's best paid 'central bank'.


On September 18, I asked the Lands Department to tell me exactly how much land it sold during the period when the '50 hectares' limit was in force between 1984 and 1997. I seem to have seen yearly sales figures on the official Web site. To avoid mistakes on my part I wanted to have a simple answer from the 'source'. On September 25, the director wrote back: 'We regret to advise that your requested information is not available.' To which I responded immediately: 'If you do not have that information, who in Hong Kong would?' So far, no answer.


On September 20, I sent an e-mail to the office of the financial secretary requesting the figure of the unfunded pension liabilities of the public sector. I was told the financial secretary had announced or published that figure a while back which I recall vaguely was more than $400 billion. I could not track down that source and I wanted an accurate quote. I am still awaiting an answer after a second request.


The information I seek is basic and should be readily available, most logically on the government Web site. Why am I getting no answers or non-answers? Since I have failed to get answers in 'privacy', it is time for the government to tell me publicly.


SIN-MING SHAW


Oxford, England


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