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Future Hong Kong leaders may learn the ropes in Kwun Tong as site eyed for civil service college

Academies in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand to serve as models as government presses ahead with plan for training facility

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 8:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 8:00am

The Hong Kong government has earmarked a site in Kwun Tong for an academy to train 180,000 civil servants to better deliver public services in the face of new challenges – an initiative announced by the city’s leader in her maiden policy address last year.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is expected to provide an update on preparations for the civil service college when she unveils her second policy blueprint on October 10.

Programmes will focus on developing leadership and public communications abilities. The facility will be modelled after overseas academies for public sector managers, such as the Civil Service College of Singapore and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.

Ray Yep Kin-man, a City University political scientist who has given lectures for civil service training programmes, said the government’s handling of post-typhoon clear-up work and travel arrangements highlighted the need for senior officials to enhance their political judgment.

Lam and her ministers came under fire last week for underestimating the chaos brought from widespread damage caused by Typhoon Mangkhut, the most intense storm to hit Hong Kong since records began.

Sources familiar with the government’s preparations for the college said a site in Kwun Tong had been identified for the facility, but it remained unclear when Lam’s brainchild would be up and running.

During a visit to Singapore in August last year, Lam pledged to set up Hong Kong’s first academy for its civil servants after touring the city state’s Civil Service College – an experience she called “very enlightening”.

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Hong Kong Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong also visited the Singapore college during his trip to the Lion City in October last year.

In May, Law said the government had identified an appropriate site for the college building and was conducting a study into the project.

Asked to confirm whether a site in Kwun Tong had been chosen, a spokesman for the Civil Service Bureau would only say the search for a suitable location was almost over.

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“We are conducting further studies on the establishment of the new civil service college,” he said.

The government is likely to draw reference from overseas training programmes. It is understood officials tasked with preparing the new college have been in touch with foreign institutions, including the Singapore facility, the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the school for Australia and New Zealand.

The Civil Service Bureau spokesman said Law had visited a number of places in the past few months to learn more about the operations of overseas training institutions and their programmes.

“The information gathered will be a useful reference for us in taking the project forward,” he said.

Leadership skills and deepening understanding of China’s development would be key tasks for the college, Lam said in her policy address last year, as well as enhancing awareness of international affairs.

Yep said there was a pressing need to improve civil servants’ knowledge of the international community and global trends.

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An example he gave was how the government had been promoting Islamic finance for the last decade to make the city a platform for sukuk bond offerings.

“But I’m doubtful many officials have a good grasp of Islamic finance,” Yep said.

The professor believed officials should continue sending rising stars in the government on exchange programmes with prestigious institutions in China and Western countries, for the sake of networking.