Voice in Legco
Voice in Legco - Improve Administration to Achieve Good Governance

Administration concerns all aspects of the HKSAR government, including the overall administration mindset that underpins the formulation, implementation and supervision of various government policy measures. Hong Kong needs to improve its administration to achieve good governance.


The current Chief Executive’s maiden Policy Address delivered in October 2022 was also the first Policy Address for the HKSAR after the full implementation of the “patriots administering Hong Kong” principle. In terms of how it has been framed and its policy content, the Policy Address effectively responded to the “four musts” and “four expectations” stated by President Xi Jinping in his important speech during his visit in Hong Kong on 1 July. A highlight of the Policy Address is the Chief Executive’s particular focus on administration mindset, attracting talents, land, housing and healthcare.


Grasp the relationship between Central Government’s overall jurisdiction and HKSAR’s autonomy

As a special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong has been reintegrated into the country’s system of governance since the motherland resumed the exercise of sovereignty over it in 1997. As President Xi has said, “Only when the enforcement of the Central Government’s overall jurisdiction over the SAR dovetails with the fulfillment of a high degree of autonomy in the SAR can the HKSAR be well governed.” Making it clear from the outset, the Policy Address stated in its second chapter that it is necessary to fully and faithfully implement the “One Country, Two Systems” principle to reinforce the core value of the rule of law. I very much agree with the three themes established by the Government in promoting the Constitution and the Basic Law going forward, especially making it clear that “the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is authorized by the Central Government” and stressing that “one country” comes before “two systems”. However, has the Government done enough to publicize and explain in details the Central Government’s overall jurisdiction, which Hong Kong people do not understand well and some of them even refuse to acknowledge? Separately, regarding publicity and education on the Constitution, the Government should strive to promote a comprehensive understanding of the Constitution in terms of both focus and breadth, working from the details to the big picture. It is also necessary to use new media and different channels to communicate information on the rule of law to young people.


Change administration mindset to better combine effective government and efficient market

Given Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy authorized by the Central Government, the Chief Executive and the HKSAR Government, as the key people running Hong Kong and those with the primary responsibility for it, must never shy away from difficult decisions for matters that fall within the scope of its autonomy in order to ensure that it is governed well. In this year’s Policy Address, what may have the longest-term transitional significance in terms of governance is the Government's determination to adopt a new mindset of governance to move towards a better combination of effective government and efficient market, instead of sticking to the old mindset of “positive non-interventionism” and “big market, small government”. For example, in respect of the governance system on government investments, it will pool together resources for promoting the development of industries and the economy through the new Hong Kong Investment Corporation Limited (HKIC), and proactively dovetail with national strategies through the Steering Group on Integration into National Development. To address population and talent drain issues, the Government proactively set up the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (OASES), and set up Dedicated Teams for Attracting Businesses and Talents in 17 Mainland Offices and overseas Economic and Trade Offices within this year. Regarding land, the Policy Address targeted to supply 3,280 hectares of spade-ready sites in the coming decade and assume a leading role in land supply, and introduced a new Pilot Scheme on Private Developer Participation in Subsidized Housing Development to enhance public-private partnership in housing.


All these measures reflect the Government’s changing governance mindset, but it has not elaborated on how to better combine effective government with efficient market, which needs further exploration in practice. To trigger more discussions, I put forward three issues that the Government should consider and address. First, the Government needs to judge when and under what circumstances it should supplement or intervene in the market to facilitate efficient allocation of resources; second, how it should put people first when dealing with specific policies and programs; in addition, in the face of the problem that the fruits of development that come with the long-term free development of the market have not been widely shared by all sectors and strata of society, how it should use policies and laws, such as competition laws, to guide the orderly development of capital, and redistribute resources through a series of measures, such as fiscal taxes.


Improve execution and supervision to enhance governance effectiveness to benefit people

Besides changing the mindset of governance, the Policy Address also responded on how to improve the Government’s standard of governance in three aspects, ie, governance systems, governance capability and governance efficacy. As the saying goes, good tools are a prerequisite to the success of a task, new organizations such as the Steering Group on Integration into National Development, the Steering Committee on the Northern Metropolis and the Advisory Committee on the Northern Metropolis will facilitate high-level coordination of cross-bureau and cross-departmental division of labor and collaboration in formulating and implementing various tasks. However, the power and effectiveness of governance mindsets and systems ultimately can only take root and bear fruit through execution. Even with systems in place, governance capability is out of the question without effective personnel training, execution and supervision, let alone bringing benefits to the people. I hope that the Government will strengthen the training of civil servants, and in the process of achieving the 110 different indicators for specified tasks and the indicators set by the various bureau and departments, instead of doing something just for the sake of doing it, i.e., focusing on the number of indicators it can achieve without paying attention to the quality of execution, they should adopt a pragmatic attitude to make adjustment and improvement in a timely manner. At the same time, the Government must respect the legislature, follow legislative procedures, and fully explain policies. The Legislative Council will exercise effective oversight and supervision to do its part to improve good governance in Hong Kong.


This is a free translation. For the exact meaning of the article, please refer to the Chinese version.

Should you have any comments on the article, please feel free to contact Mr Martin Liao.
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