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Speech by the SCS on the motion of thanks in respect of the Policy Address


Following is the English version of the speech by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Joseph W P Wong, on Debate on the Motion of Thanks on the 2004 Policy Address today (February 6):

Madam President,

First of all, I would like to thank Mr Hui Cheung-ching, Ms Margaret Ng, Ms Li Fung-ying, Mr Lau Ping-cheung, Mr Leung Fu-wah, Mr Chan ..Kwok-keung and Mr Tam Yiu-chung for expressing their opinion on civil service matters.

Maintain a quality civil service

As always, the Hong Kong SAR Government considers maintaining a clean and effective civil service instrumental to the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. As a matter of fact, our civil service plays a positive role whenever Hong Kong encounters challenges or difficulties.

As Chief Executive mentioned in this year's Policy Address, 2003 was an extraordinary year for Hong Kong. SARS had dealt a severe blow to both the economy and our society while measures to reduce fiscal deficit had added burden to various social strata. Yet the community is proud to note that our civil servants have never been daunted by adversity. Though working under immense pressure, they have supported the execution of Government's policies and continued to provide the community with quality services. On various fronts, civil servants fully discharged their duties to prevent the spread of SARS together with medical and health personnel. Besides, their facilitating role in implementing the 24-hour custom and immigration clearance service at Shenzhen and Mainland's Individual Visits Scheme has helped revitalize our economy. Efforts have also been made to implement CEPA as a new impetus to our economic restructuring and recovery. The Southeast Asia has been recently plagued by the avian flu and our civil servants are fully on guard against the spread of the disease to Hong Kong.

In May this year, we shall launch another round of Customer Service Award Scheme to further promote the culture of quality service among Government departments and recognize the outstanding performance of our staff. On top of this, we shall extend the scope of the Commendation Letter Scheme and introduce the Secretary for the Civil Service's Commendation Award Scheme in an attempt to give recognition to meritorious staff. I hope that in the year to come, our civil servants will carry forward their fine tradition and achieve higher goals.

Entrench Civil Service Reform

To ensure that civil servants can respond swiftly and effectively to changes in our society, we need to have a modernized civil service. Since 1999, we have been progressively implementing the Civil Service Reform. During this process, we always abide by the following four principles:

(i) respond to changes in the society and cater for the overall interests of the community;
(ii) follow the principles of lawfulness, fairness and reasonableness in reforms;
(iii) establish partnership and consult thoroughly civil service associations and the entire civil service; and
(iv) safeguard the core values of civil service and give full play to the strengths of the current civil service system.

After this session, I will provide members and interested parties with an update on Civil Service Reform together with a copy of this speaking note.

In the Policy Agenda for 2004, five policy initiatives concern the management of civil service, namely streamlining the civil service establishment, developing an improved civil service pay adjustment mechanism, reviewing all civil service allowances, providing civil servants with robust training and development opportunities, and promoting a performance-based culture. At the Panel on Public Service meeting on 16 January 2004, I briefed members on the efforts made in these areas.

Enhance training and development

On Civil Service Reform, I wish to point out that while the reduction of remuneration package and manpower has attracted focused discussion and wide media coverage, as a matter of fact, a key objective of reform is to enhance the training and development of civil servants. Take the national studies programmes as an example, more resources will be spent on enriching civil servants' understanding of the challenges and opportunities brought by closer economic integration between Hong Kong and the Mainland. We have already made arrangements with the municipal governments of Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou for reciprocal attachment of civil servants under the Staff Exchange Pogramme. We are now exploring the possibility of working out a similar exchange programme with Guangdong.

Work towards a better future

As we take forward the Civil Service Reform, we are aware that some civil servants might have anxiety about the changes incurred. To encourage civil servants to achieve better performance and higher efficiency, we shall maintain thorough communication with civil service associations and civil servants, solicit their opinion and explain to them our policy intentions through various channels at the central or departmental levels.

I am confident that our excellent civil service will continue to display professionalism in every position to service the community with dedication.

Thank you Madam President.

Friday, February 6, 2004

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