Hong Kong government must recruit officials from overseas

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 9:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 11:16pm

Your editorial in favour of judges from overseas (“Foreign judges play a vital role in promoting confidence in Hong Kong”, March 13) brings another point to mind, which is the need for the government to recruit globally, not just from Hong Kong.

In the time of the colonial administration, many higher-level civil servants were recruited from English-speaking countries on the basis of their qualifications and experience, with the result that their overseas experience was made available to the Hong Kong administration and policymaking benefited. Well before 1997, localisation became government policy and progressively fewer civil servants were recruited from overseas.

This continued after 1997 and one can say that wholesale localisation has had a negative effect on the quality of government administration and policymaking.

Quite rightly, the idea of Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong became policy and there is no problem with local people occupying the most senior government positions, but the increasing lack of individuals with overseas experience within the civil service must have a negative effect on policymaking and execution.

Indeed, since 1997, it has been a constant complaint that it has become much harder to get decisions made by the government. Civil servants have seemed reluctant to make decisions and prefer to pass the buck on to others, or simply say no, on the grounds that a consensus had not been reached, based on the woolly idea that consensus is essential before any decision can be made.

No large company here would limit itself to recruiting only from Hong Kong as to do so would adversely affect it. It is the same with the government. Recruiting only from Hong Kong will inevitably have an adverse effect on the quality of government administration and especially on the quality of policymaking.

If Hong Kong wants to return to its former status as a dynamic international city, it must open the doors to recruiting from the rest of the world and not just from the limited Hong Kong talent pool, where people only know how things are done here. To do otherwise will condemn our administration to continuing its presently perceived stagnation and ineffectiveness.

R. L. Wilson, Discovery Bay