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  • Dec 19, 2014
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CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong must be watchful of city's growing bureaucracy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 3:44am

Concerns have been raised after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced the creation of yet two more high-level committees during his policy address. The establishment of the Financial Services Development Council and the Economic Development Commission brought the number of new and revamped bodies to 16 since he took office. Their portfolios include, among others, studying standard working hours, harbour management, health care, Chinese medicine and sustainable fisheries.

While each body may serve a worthy purpose, when added together they give the impression of an expanded bureaucracy. The new bodies have not only raised public expectations to a high level, but their roles and the choice of individuals to serve on them are also highly controversial.

Over the years, our bureaucracy has become bloated with layers of high-level steering committees and advisory bodies. Tung Chee-hwa created the Chief Executive's Council of International Advisers and the Commission on Strategic Development during his seven-year rule. His successor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, also appointed the Taskforce on Economic challenges to nurture new economic strengths in 2009.

Our leaders may be truly convinced that a dedicated task force or advisory panel will bring forth better solutions. But if experience is anything to go by, the work of many committees did not instil much public confidence. They were often branded as no more than a new layer of bureaucracy or talking shops that frustrate civil servants in charge of the policy. Some strategies have even been deemed misguided and are being scrapped by the Leung team.

Leung rightly seeks to boost economic growth by consolidating our strengths and developing new industries. There is no question that the appointees of the two new panels are leading figures in their fields. We stand to benefit as long as their advice is given with the city's overall interest in mind. But, understandably, the affiliations of some mainland members in the Financial Services Development Council, such as Levin Zhu, son of former premier Zhu Rongji , have aroused fears that our development strategies will be guided by Chinese enterprises. That the council is to be incorporated as a private company instead of a publicly funded or statutory body also appears to be unconventional within the government. Better arrangements are needed.


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Leung's creation of numerous committees reminds me of the civil service's practice of paying countless consultants to say what they want to but dare not.
He should have simplified things rather than complicating them (by creating 2 more committees). The optic is that there are too many chiefs but no indians. He should have reduced the complexity, rolled up his sleeves and got down to do some real works with tangible results --- talk, talk, and more talk will get him nowhere.
Hong Kong seven million plus population warrants more not less leaderships to look after public interests. Hong Kong government has been bundling two or more different functions as a single department which otherwise would be normally separate distinct government departments in other cities. An open administration must keep its administration departments independent of each other and must corporate when call for. For years I have observed and questioned about bundling housing and transportation: has the MTR development stopped at Shang Wan anything to do with that? How fair and open could issues be discussed and resolved when there is conflict? How much issues are swept under the rug when conveniently decided by a single mind of an unchecked bureaucrat. There shouldn’t be a limit impose on the number of committees when issues warrant them. By past history, Hong Kong government was prompt to establish committees and study groups with a handful of members who hopped from committee to committee. They were too as a means to co-op opponents or and window dressing for a predestinated result. Time limit and membership must be imposed and explained respectively.


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