Developing human capital just as important as setting up innovation and technology bureau
Chief executives try to shape their administrations to fit their visions for the city. Leung Chun-ying is making his second attempt to establish an innovation and technology bureau, part of a proposed government restructuring abandoned in the face of conflict with lawmakers during the troubled early days of his government. When the first post-handover chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, revamped his administration to better promote innovation and technology, they were still buzz words. Now they are household words and the business of a number of bureaus and departments.
That is not to say there is no longer any place for a bureau that specialises in the facilitation of innovation and technology as a driver of development and economic restructuring. It will be important to maintaining the city's competitiveness, given that China's opening up has narrowed the advantages of being a gateway to the mainland. It will therefore be important to avoid wasteful duplication and turf wars.
This time Leung has made the new bureau as palatable as possible to lawmakers wary of the cost of big government, budgeting it at just under HK$30 million a year. We trust he is right to expect enough support in the legislature this time. Officials have already identified the development of a digital ID for every Hongkonger and converting research into product as key tasks of the bureau, which will oversee the Innovation and Technology Commission and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer.
Looking forward, the foundations of the growth needed to maintain the city's edge remain a free and low-tax economy with global connectivity in goods and finance. In keeping with the principle that the market leads and the government facilitates, an innovation and technology bureau would have a role to play in creating a positive climate for investment and risk-taking. That said, it should not be seen as a cure-all. Its creative potential depends on greater investment in human capital, such as in education that develops people's talents.