LCQ6:Govt tackles crises with dedication and professionalism


Following is a question by the Hon Bernard Chan and a reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr W K Lam, in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):


It is reported that Mr Lee Kuan-yew, Senior Minister of Singapore, has said that the leading cadre of the Hong Kong Government lack experience in "crisis management", resulting in their inability to stay calm in face of crisis. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether assessments have been made on the performance of various bureaux and departments in the past two years in handling various important issues, such as the avian flu and the Asian financial turmoil; if so, whether the assessment results indicate that senior officials lack crisis-management experience; and

(b) of the specific plans in place to strengthen the alertness, crisis-handling capabilities and management skills of officials when faced with crisis?


Madam President,

(a) The Administration constantly reviews and reflects on actions taken on issues of major public concern. In the eighteen months since the establishment of HKSAR government, Hong Kong has experienced major incidents including the avian flu and the Asian financial turmoil, which had put the Administration to test in its ability in crisis management. In both instances, the nature, scale and severity of the crises were unprecedented. Despite that, the bureaux and departments concerned have tried their best to tackle the crises with dedication and professionalism. There are certainly things that we could have done better, and we are determined to learn from these experiences. But it would be an over-simplification to blame the mistakes we made on the lack of experience of senior officials in crisis management. Given the highly complex and unpredictable nature of both these incidents, the fact that we have managed to achieve our policy aims effectively (i.e. to bring the outbreak of the avian flu to an end, and to stabilize the financial and property markets) says a lot about our abilities to climb the learning curve quickly and to get on top of the problems in time.

(b) We believe that the best way to deal with crisis is to develop the ability to recognise, at an early stage, developments which could give rise to crisis. Seminars on contingency planning, crisis management and effective communication are held from time to time for management staff at all levels. The Administration has also developed early warning systems in strategic areas such as public health and financial services by monitoring information available locally and internationally. The fact that the Administration has been able to deal with, for example, the avian flu at an incipient stage and was able to defend the currency, was due to the fact that the relevant bureaux and departments managed to take timely and decisive action, having had the right information to hand.

End/Wednesday, January 6, 1999