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Speech by Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food (English only)


Following is a speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the Civil Service Management Forum today (August 28):

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this civil service management forum - A world-class government for Asia's world city.

Today you are taking part in the fifth of what will be eight management forums this week. By the end of Thursday, more than 14,000 of your colleagues will have gone through this same exercise. Those participating come from all grades and have varying degrees of service and experience. Most of the questions you will be asked have no right or wrong answers. They are designed to stimulate discussion - a frank, free and open exchange of ideas, comments and knowhow.

During this forum you will discuss the forces of change that are impacting on Hong Kong and how they affect the work of the civil service. China's entry to the WTO, economic co-operation with the Pearl River Delta, the need for life-long learning, an ageing population - all of these and more will affect Hong Kong's development and, by extension, what you do every day at work. How we deal with these challenges and pressures will determine whether we can achieve our goal to become Asia's world city.

In many ways we have already achieved that status. In other areas, such as quality of life issues, we need to do a lot more. So after today, it is hoped that you will have a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a world city, and how the civil service has a vital role to play in that process.

One key focus is the importance of working in partnership, not just within the civil service which is hard enough some times; but also with the private sector, with NGOs, the legislature and academia. Any of you who have watched a Dragon Boat race will know that the best teams are those that use their collective strength and paddle together as a unit; if one or two people are out of step with the drum beat then the boat becomes unsteady and loses its momentum. This week's management forums are designed to help us all paddle together to the same beat and to appreciate the value of welcoming new members into the team.

During your discussions today, you will touch upon a wide range of political, organisational and management issues. You will not have time to consider them in great detail - that is not the purpose. The main purpose is to raise awareness of these issues and for you to consider how best you may deal with them in your own particular work environment.

Let me give you some food for thought about some of the challenges and issues I am facing in my own portfolio. Collective effort will be needed to deal with them.

* Rapid advances in science and technology have given us new and alternative therapeutic options which enable us to increase longevity and improve quality of life. But often these advances come at a substantial cost. How can we meet the aspirations of the community to give them the best treatment possible?

* Many Hong Kong people like to buy fresh poultry at the markets. But the chicken 'flu outbreaks have posed a serious threat to public health. Should we try to change long-standing habits and traditions to reduce even further the risk of another outbreak?

* An ageing population will place increasing demands on health and welfare services in Hong Kong. How do we transform our institutional framework to meet this challenge?

As you can see, these are not easy questions to answer, and they illustrate the complexity of the many issues facing our community.

As civil servants you have a crucial role to play in helping to resolve all of these issues. Without your drive, dedication, experience and imagination we will not be able to address these problems. You all have a role to play - whether in developing new services or revamping old services to provide better value for money; whether you have been in charge of a section for several years or are just starting a new posting. Each of us needs to identify how we can make a difference.

The next few years will present Hong Kong with considerable challenges and opportunities. In many ways, we are at a turning point. What we do now, and how we react to the pressures on us over the next few years, will determine whether we can make the grade as a world city. I am sure we can make it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you in advance for your time and effort today. I wish you all an enjoyable and interesting dialogue.

Thank you.

End/Wednesday, August 28, 2002


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