Speech by Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands



Following is the speech by the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, Mr Michael Suen, at the Civil Service Management Forum today (August 27):


Good morning everybody, and welcome to this Civil Service Management Forum - A world-class government for Asia's world city.


As you will have heard, the first two sessions were held yesterday. This is the third, and by the end of this week more than fourteen thousand civil servants will have taken part in a total of eight such management forums.


This is the biggest single management forum undertaken within the civil service. The discussion format is very much an interactive process. It is designed to maximize involvement from each and every person around the table. Apart from a few questions, there are no right or wrong answers. The focus is on sharing your experience and ideas. I am sure you will find it an interesting and thought-provoking exercise.


Hong Kong has set itself the challenging tasks of being 'Asia's world city'. What is a 'World City'? I hope you will achieve some consensus on this. In some respects I am sure you will find that we have already achieved that status. In some others, we still have much to do. One of today's objectives is to achieve a common understanding of the community's needs and aspirations, how these tie in with being a world city and, what we in government need to do in policy and practice to help achieve these goals.


For the past five years we have concentrated on consolidating and strengthening our political, legal, social and economic systems, implementing the Basic Law and the 'one country, two systems' concept. Despite all the negative predictions, and the unanticipated external economic problems we have imported, Hong Kong has shown once again its own resilience. I know that much of this is due to the determination you and your colleagues have put in for many years. We can be proud of our achievements in the past and confident that we have the ability to respond sensibly, imaginatively and with courage to all that our future holds out.


Now we need to address the challenges and opportunities of the changing local, regional and global economic orders. These include globalisation, China's accession to the WTO, and the prospect of a further round of WTO liberalisation talks. Add to these the ever increasing pace of technological development and the need for life-long learning. If we ignore all these, the world class will pass city, and it will be our competitors, not us, who will reap the rewards from providing new services and supplying new markets.


During your discussions today, you should touch upon a wide range of political, organisational and management

issues. You will not have time to consider them in detail - that is not the purpose. The purpose is to raise awareness and inform your future actions and considerations once you have gone back to your departments.


Let me give you some example of issues, from within my own portfolio, that I hope all of you, not just those in my own bureau and in their own departments, will be able to contribute to in the coming months and years.


I am particularly conscious in my new role of the significant and long-term impacts of our decisions in the quality of life of the community. In this regard, the following questions come to mind :


* Now that Government's public housing programme will soon reach its 50th anniversary and that we have provided assisted public housing for about half of the population, what should be our role and policy objectives for the future? Should we continue to increase the number, or proportion of people assisted? Should we instead focus on the most needy? Or should we place greater emphasis on quality? If we are to continue to subsidise housing, how do we deliver the subsidy?


* Building quality and safety in the private sector has again hit the headlines recently. Given the growing stock of ageing private property, it is likely to be a regular feature in the future. What should government's role be in policing, and enforcing improvements to private property? What can we do further to enhance the quality of building management?


* Government is regularly accused of maintaining a high land price policy. It is undeniable that the treasury has benefited enormously over the years from land revenue. Where should Government stand in the supply of land? How should we value the cost of land? What are the likely impacts?


As I have suggested earlier, answers to these questions are not expected today. But they do illustrate the complexity of the tasks ahead, the appreciation of which should be reinforced by today's discussions.


Turning the community's wishes into reality requires a world class government. It must be clear that all of us have a role to play. With the introduction of the new accountability system, the community looks to the Government for more speedy response to public aspirations and for the senior echelons of the Government to be subjected to a higher degree of accountability. All public servants, whether involved in developing new services or pursuing best practices in the delivery of old services, whether senior managers or front line workers, must contribute to the formulation of the goals that need to be set. Once established, it is essential that the whole team that makes up the civil service gives its support. This should be manifested in practical ways, with every individual identifying, and doing, what he can to achieve the common goals.


The coming years are likely to see one of the most interesting periods in Hong Kong's history, for which we must all prepare ourselves. This morning's discussions will help you start to prepare to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities that come your way. I look forward to seeing the outcome of these discussions and hope to see realistic, practical and innovative ideas being prepared, developed and implemented as a result. Once again, good luck with your discussions, I wish you every success. Thank you.


End/Tuesday, August 27, 2002