Following is the speech by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at the Civil Service Management Forum this (August 29) afternoon (English only):
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I always like coming to this venue. But, today is very special. Normally, when we come here for dinners, the tables are round; or when we come here for business seminars, they are organsied in theatre format. But, the very fact that today we have rectangular tables goes to show that we are going to do something special. And, I am delighted to have this opportunity to join all of you for the final session of the Management Forum, "A World-class Government for Asia's World City". And, in essence, this series of management forum sessions is about all of us together embracing change.
I wish to cite two reasons why we should all consider embracing change positively. Firstly, there is a phenomenon, which economists around the world call "surplus production capacity".
When I visited Japan last year, people there were very worried about the phenomenon which they called "hollowing out of Japanese industries"-basically, that meant the relocation of manufacturing base from Japan largely to the Mainland of China. And, people were concerned that they would lose their jobs, that their businesses would depreciate and they would have a less bright future. But, of course in reality, embracing change for them meant they should embrace the free market economy and international competition to keep their competitive edge.
Now, Hong Kong is an international city. That's why all the policies and programmes which we, as the government, generate and implement must be up to international standards and must be in keeping with the international situation around us.
"Surplus Production capacity" exists the world over. Hong Kong has to face up to this phenomenon. We are not alone.
When I visited Canada earlier this month, people were more hopeful, because in the last ten years or so the North American economy has expanded quite substantially, and unemployment in Canada is standing at an all time low for recent years. It's about seven percent.
In Hong Kong, our unemployment is standing at 7.8 % ( at an all time high. But, I wish to contrast these two sets of unemployment figures for you, so that we appreciate once again even though different economies face different situations, it is always an uphill battle in undertaking our programmes to create employment and to tackle unemployment. Creating job opportunities is a first priority of this government. And again, that requires all of us to think flexibly, positively and to have an attitude to embrace change.
Now the second fact I wish to place before all of our colleagues here is that as a government, as an administration, we have to tackle the problem of the budget deficit.
For the current year, the budget deficit is forecast to amount to about HK$40 billion. And, bearing in mind that our annual government expenditure comes to something like $HK250 billion, the deficit makes up for a substantial proportion of our expenditure. And, we owe it to ourselves, to the people of Hong Kong, to try to tackle this. All of us run some sort of government programmes, some sort of government policies, and different sections in the government departments. We have a role to play.
What is the answer to this challenge for change? The fundamental point is we have to embrace change together in our hearts and minds. We have to explore possibilities to see how we can serve the people of Hong Kong and our community better.
We all have different roles to play, different sections to manage, different policies to implement. In the last few days, I have seen some commentaries suggesting that in the exercises which we conducted here, maybe the organizers should have prescribed clearer and more precise answers (to the exercises which are going to be conducted in a few moments' time). But, the very fact that we all come from different departments, bureaux, sections and services, means there is no one answer which fits all. However, there is one attitude which fits this common challenge that we face. And that is, we should embrace change positively and do our very best to come up with solutions in our respective capacity to serve the Hong Kong people better, to do more with less, and in the mean time, keep the quality of our services to the community at a high standard.
I think if all of us move away from this venue together, having taken a few steps towards acquiring this mentality, this heart to embrace change, we would have made some progress.
Thank you very much, and I would join you in these exercises in a few moments.
End/Thursday, August 29, 2002