Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung at the opening of the Civil Service Management Forum today (August 26):
Good afternoon my fellow colleagues, and welcome to the second of eight management forums that will take place this week. By Thursday afternoon, over thirteen thousand senior civil servants will have debated the challenges and opportunities that Hong Kong is likely to face in the coming years.
Hong Kong's goal is to become, and to remain, Asia's World City. To achieve this, we need to engage in open, frank and honest examination and discussion of the problems we face, the needs of the community, and the opportunities open to us. Equally, we need to consider how we set and achieve our priorities. I hope that today's discussion will be enlightening, and will contribute towards developing the consensus necessary to ensure we focus all our efforts on attaining agreed targets.
I have no doubt about our ability to do this. Hong Kong's history provides many examples of the community and the civil service facing adversity, rising to the challenge, and emerging stronger and more confident than before.
One of the key challenges that we face is that Hong Kong is experiencing the acute pains of the economic downturn. This time it is the most severe and extended for many years. In addition to the global economic uncertainties, we are also facing economic uncertainties nearer to home as a result of the need for our economic restructuring, the persistent price deflation that has lasted over 3 years, historically high levels of unemployment, and fears that we are losing our competitive edge to others.
The government's budgetary situation is not sustainable. We cannot rely indefinitely on our fiscal reserves to cover the current account deficit. We cannot assume that economic recovery sometime down the road will inevitably and magically return us to the days of abundant revenues and overflowing coffers. We must press ahead, boldly and imaginatively, with reforms to ensure that we continue to meet the community's growing demands and expectations. And this must be done with limited new resources, if any, being made available.
I know that you are already making personal sacrifices, to share the pain that the community has experienced. But we must go further. To achieve this I often refer to the 3Rs. Within Government we need to re-prioritise to ensure that the services that utilise resources today is what society wants and needs today. We must reorganise by creating structures that make the best use of the private sector whilst fulfilling our policy and operational requirements. And we must re-engineer our own organisations and processes, to avoid duplication and multiple handling, and to use appropriate technologies to the best effect.
Today you will all discuss why these approaches are necessary regardless of the state of the economy, whether we are in surplus or deficit, and irrespective of the size of the fiscal reserves. To stay ahead of the competition, we must maintain a state of constant improvement.
Let me give you a couple of examples of the type of improvements that each and every one of us could identify, that would help cut out unnecessary costs for the administration, for businesses or for the man in the street:
- First of all, we should examine whether the services we provide are still required. If not, then withdraw the services. If they are still needed, we should consider objectively whether we can make better use of the private sector in the delivery of the services. Only through this process can we cope with the ever increasing community aspirations with limited resources; and
- If certain work with the community involves other departments, we should examine whether the processes can be simplified or rationalised. If multi-departmental input is essential, can a one-stop-shop be established to simplify the point of contact for the customer?
These are just some examples. The point I want to stress is that to achieve the goal, every one of us in this room, not just me or your senior, has an important role to play. My hope is that following today's forum you can better identify realistic, practical measures that can improve the operations of the Government and enhance the community's prospects.
Finally, may I wish you all a fruitful and interesting discussion. Thank you.
End/Monday, August 26, 2002