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CS's speech at SCMP Conference on Human Capital in Greater China (English only) (with photo)

Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Rafael Hui, at SCMP Conference on Human Capital in Greater China at Island Shangri-La Hotel this afternoon (January 10):

ˇ§Developing Our Economic and Political Human Resourcesˇ¨

Nancy (Valiente), KT (Lai), David (Armstrong), ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon.  First of all, I would like to thank the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management for organising this forum, and for allowing me to share my thoughts on the development of Hong Kongˇ¦s human resources.

     As we all know, one of the reasons of Hong Kongˇ¦s achievements is our human capital, the quality of our people.  For a long time, the Government has been making huge investments in areas such as education and retraining, to help our people to maximise their potential and their contributions to our future.  About a quarter of our annual budget is spent on education.  In recognition of Hong Kongˇ¦s unique role as an international city and a gateway to the Mainland, special emphasis is placed on language skills in both Chinese and English.  A rich variety of academic, vocational and continuing education programmes have been developed, in partnership with our educational institutes, to cater to students and adults in their personal and professional pursuits.  Such efforts must, and  will continue.

     In parallel, we have worked on supplementing our local human capital where manpower needs cannot be met locally.  Of course, we need to safeguard employment opportunities for the local workforce.  But we also believe that talented people from outside Hong Kong, with their different backgrounds and areas of expertise, do complement and generate synergy with the local workforce to the greater benefit of an international city like ours.

     Such synergy is evident from our experience with our current talent importation schemes.  For example, each Mainland professional that we have admitted has led to the creation of about 1.5 local jobs. In each of the past couple of years, over 15,000 professionals from overseas and about 4,000 Mainland professionals have been permitted to take up employment in Hong Kong.  If their employment in Hong Kong continues, many will ultimately be eligible for permanent residency.

     We have been reviewing the existing schemes to see if we can do more.  One feature of these admission schemes is the ability of the applicant to secure an offer of a job in Hong Kong that pays market level remuneration and cannot be readily filled by a local.  Some commentators have suggested that this requirement is too narrow, citing schemes of other countries where an employment offer is not a pre-requisite.  We listened to these views. And in October, 2003, we introduced the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, which aims to attract high net worth individuals to reside in Hong Kong and eventually become part of our permanent population.  After more than two years, this scheme has succeeded in attracting HK$4.3 billion. On average, some 500 applications are received each year, and the average investment made by each entrant is about HK$7.3 million, which is higher than the required minimum of $6.5 million.

     Later this year, we will take another step to make Hong Kong more competitive in the global contest for talent by implementing an initiative announced by the Chief Executive in his Policy Address last October.  We will introduce a new admission scheme under which talented people will be allowed to take up residence in Hong Kong without having to secure a job offer beforehand.  Details of the scheme are now being finalised, but we expect the main criteria to include age, academic attainment, professional qualification and work experience.  We will set a quota, expected to be 1,000 to 2,000 entrants a year initially.  An advisory committee comprising official and non-official members will give recommendations to the Director of Immigration on the selection of the most meritorious candidates to be offered a place within the quota.

     Successful applicants will be allowed to bring their immediate families to Hong Kong.  They will be granted an initial period of stay, during which they may take steps to settle and develop their career or business here.  Extension of stay will be conditional on entrants demonstrating to the satisfaction of the Immigration Department that they have taken steps to settle in Hong Kong and are contributing to our economy.

     We believe this new scheme will give us a new tool to attract people of talent who are crucial to our long-term manpower needs.  The new scheme will effectively complement our existing employment-based and family reunion-based entry policies. As the Chief Executive said in his Policy Address, a larger pool of talent will increase our competitiveness, make Hong Kong more prosperous, attract capital and create jobs.  This new blood will turn Hong Kong into an even more vibrant society.

     I would like to move on now to another type of talent that is said to be in shortage in our society.  While we can import professionals from outside to meet business needs, our political human resources have to be developed from within our home-grown population.

     Some people say a successful politician needs to possess inborn qualities such as leadership and decisiveness that are not found in others.  In my view, politics also can be an acquired art. Someone who is devoted to serving the community and has integrity, given adequate opportunity to nurture his or her political skills, can over time make a lasting contribution to our society.  I strongly believe that future politicians can be spotted in different segments of our community ˇV in our business and professional sectors, our university campuses and our non-government organisations, as well as our public sector.

     This brings me to the question of what the Government should do, and can do, to groom political talent. Hong Kongˇ¦s political institutions are evolving.  Our destination is universal suffrage, as clearly stipulated in our constitutional document, the Basic Law.  In our move towards full democratisation, we should open up our institutions in a progressive manner to create more room for political parties and individuals to realise their potential.  The Government is firmly committed to providing an environment that facilitates the growth and development of political parties, and to creating new room for publicly spirited individuals to participate in public affairs.

     The Government put in place the so-called Accountability System in July, 2002, allowing talented people from outside the Government, including those with a political party background as well as independent candidates, to contribute to the governance of Hong Kong through appointment as Principal Officials.  At the same time, a number of Legislative Council Members with party affiliation have been appointed to the Executive Council.  This strengthens the linkage between the Government and the Legislative Council, and is conducive to nurturing political talent.

     At present, our 500 or so advisory and statutory boards play a useful role in grooming political talent.  They provide a platform for people from different sectors and backgrounds to take part in public affairs, and contribute to the policy formulation process.  The expanded Commission on Strategic Development will allow us to better respond to public demand for greater inclusion, transparency and openness in our political environment and policy making.

     Elections are a core part of Hong Kongˇ¦s political life. In the 2003 District Council elections, we increased the number of directly elected seats by 10, to 400 for the whole territory.  These extra district seats enable more efficient and effective direct services to be provided to residents in newly developed regions.  They also create more opportunities for political participation.  And, in the 2004 Legislative Council elections, the number of directly elected seats was increased to 30 in accordance with the Basic Law.

     It was therefore a huge disappointment that our progressive democratisation proposals did not secure the necessary two-thirds support by our legislature.  It would have enabled parties across the political spectrum, as well as independent candidates, to compete for 10 additional seats in the Legislative Council. This would have meant a lot to budding politicians, who would have had a greater chance of realising their aspirations. Very regrettably, the reality now is that the electoral arrangements in 2007 and 2008 will have to be the status quo.

     But the non-passage of the constitutional reform package is not the end of our overall long-term agenda for constitutional development.  We still have important issues to pursue.

     The Government is currently reviewing the roles and functions of District Councils. Devolving more powers and responsibilities to the District Councils will help us groom more political talent in years to come.

     We also are considering the possibilities for broadening the system of political appointments beyond the level of bureau directors in the administration.  We will issue a consultative document on this subject in the first half of this year. Our hope is that, by opening up mid-ranking positions in the Government to outside candidates ˇV including those with backgrounds in party politics, business, the professions and academia ˇV we will strengthen the level of experience that would-be politicians can acquire.  We hope that young aspirants can join the Government as, say, assistants to bureau directors, to acquire administrative experience for a few years, and then take part in Legislative Council elections if they so choose. Having accumulated experience in both the executive and legislative branches, some of these people might later re-enter the Government as Principal Officials.  There will then be a more comprehensive career path for those who want to serve Hong Kong in various political capacities.

     The fact that there is to be no forward movement on the electoral methods for the Chief Executive in 2007 and the Legislative Council in 2008 will not deter us from continuing to try to compose a roadmap for universal suffrage.  As the Chief Executive has stated, we hope to conclude discussions in the Commission on Strategic Development by early 2007 on the model and design of the two electoral systems when attaining universal suffrage.

     The democracy agenda will continue, and so will our commitment to open up more opportunities to cultivate up-and-coming political talent. But the Government cannot undertake this important task alone.  The development of our political human resources is a collective challenge in which the Hong Kong community as a whole must get more involved.
     Our business leaders, for example, can certainly do more to nurture and support political talent and political parties, whether or not they themselves choose to stand for election.  I must stress that this appeal to the business community applies equally to all other sectors ˇV to our professions, to our academics and students, and to our politicians and political parties themselves.

     Ladies and gentlemen, human resources are a critical factor for our long-term economic prosperity.  But, as we continue to enhance the quality of our workforce, we must also spare no effort in cultivating our pool of political talent.  Only by successfully overcoming this dual challenge can we remain competitive in the globalised economy, while enjoying a political structure that is both commensurate with our economic achievements as well as our unique status as a Special Administrative Region under the Basic Law.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Issued at HKT 15:27


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