Motion Debate on the 2021 Policy Address (2022.02.17)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, Deputy President. One of the focuses of this Policy Address is the reorganization of government structure. The Chief Executive has announced in the preliminary plan that the number of Policy Bureaux will be increased from 13 to 15 upon reorganization. I support the reorganization plan in principle, while the specific details demand further discussion.

As a matter of fact, the government structure is a hardware that surely requires constant updates. However, in order to achieve good governance, we also need a high-quality software, and that is, high-quality talents. Under the “patriots administering Hong Kong” principle, the “hot kitchen” has become less hot. High-quality talents should be more willing to serve Hong Kong. Nevertheless, frankly speaking, some public officers, despite being capable, may not meet the demands of Members or other citizens in respect of their replies to questions or their work. I believe that this has a lot to do with the long-standing bureaucratic habit of sticking to the old rut, as well as the “doing less means erring less” culture among civil servants.

Hence, I have been advising public officers to avoid being evasive no matter how great the difficulties they are facing. They must have the courage to serve and innovate in order to truly tackle the problem at source. They have to come face-to-face with criticisms made by the Legislative Council and the public. As long as they can make some actual accomplishments, they will naturally win the applause of the public. It is gratifying to see that some public officers are showing a proactive attitude in the new political environment. I hope that this is a good start.

Moreover, there is no plan for the future of the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office (“PICO”) in this structural reorganization. I believe that PICO has its value of existence, but the Government also needs an internal think tank, so reorganization of the Central Policy Unit is necessary. There will be a number of long-term developments in Hong Kong, including Lantau Tomorrow, the Northern Metropolis, the Greater Bay Area, and integration into the dual circulation of the country. Therefore, the Government must have its own think tank to give advice on the development plans. A large number of public opinion surveys should also be conducted to keep tabs on the changes in public sentiments, at which the Government is relatively weak for the time being.

In fact, one of the reasons for the success of the country is being well-planned and far-sighted. Many think tanks, such as the National Development and Reform Commission, are working behind that. Hong Kong may not be able to form a think tank as huge as the National Development and Reform Commission, but it should at least have a Central Policy Unit to be responsible for conducting studies, planning and coordination, gauging public sentiments and communicating with the National Development and Reform Commission and the Guangdong Provincial Development and Reform Commission. I believe that a capable Central Policy Unit is crucial to Hong Kong which is now precisely situated at the beginning of a new era.

Lastly, I must talk about the cooperation between the administration and the legislature. Under the current “patriots administering Hong Kong” principle, the administration and the legislature should no longer be in an opposing relationship, but a complementary one. Public officers should understand that monitoring by the Legislative Council is well-intended. Currently, the Government will usually conduct extensive consultation before formulating a policy. However, once opinions are collected, it will conduct studies and make the decision internally behind closed doors without much external participation. In fact, this decision-making pattern inherited from the British Hong Kong era has become obsolete in the information age, which is why sometimes policies were divorced from reality.

In my opinion, the policy formulation process has to be changed. We surely have to take sufficient confidentiality measures, but participation of Members during the entire process is also necessary. Public officers have strong professional competencies, while Members have a good grasp of the pulse of society. Policies will be more adapted to public sentiments and opinions if we can fully cooperate. Of course, senior government officials should still have the final say on decision-making and allocation of resources, but Members should be allowed to participate more in the study and formulation process, so as to ensure that policies can be as flawless as possible.

Thank you, Deputy President.

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