MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
President, the late British writer Douglas ADAMS once said, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”. This has rightly pointed out that as the most valuable assets of the Government, the services of civil servants cannot be solely measured with money, and their values lie in their sincerity in serving the public as well as their honesty and integrity. Therefore, I have no intention today of elaborating in details on the remuneration and benefit packages of civil servants, but would like to discuss Mr Tony TSE’s motion from the perspectives of enhancing work efficiency and genuinely serving the public better.
The SAR Government has an excellent team of civil servants, who have been highly regarded in the international community. In the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2019 published by the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne last week on 29 May, Hong Kong still ranks second among 63 countries and places in the world. The assessment is based on four major factors, including economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure, and Hong Kong ranks first in the world again this year in respect of government efficiency.
However, according to the findings of the latest survey on people’s satisfaction with the SAR Government published by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong in April this year, 48% of the respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the SAR Government. The two studies mentioned above have produced completely different results, and putting political factors aside, the one conducted under the Public Opinion Programme has to a certain extent reflected the fact that many Hong Kong people’s impression of the Government and civil servants is mediocre. Why has such a situation emerged?
In this connection, I think the crux lies in the Government’s failure to follow the people-oriented approach in policy implementation. A joint-Panel duty visit was conducted in April this year to major cities in the Yangtze River Delta Region, and the President also participated in the visit. I believe all participating Members must have been deeply inspired in the visit, and realized that it is after all not as difficult as imagined to serve the public better.
During our trip to Hangzhou, we visited the Hangzhou Public Service Center located in the Hangzhou Citizen Center, where we can find service counters of all government departments of the People’s Government of the Hangzhou Municipality. There are over 140 service counters and 24-hour integrated self-service kiosks in the place, which is open all year round to provide one-stop public services to citizens. As the slogan adopted by the People’s Government of the Hangzhou Municipality suggests, members of the public only need to make “At Most One Visit” for different all-weather public services in the Center, making Hangzhou a “Mobile City”.
President, offices of various government departments in Hong Kong are usually open for service from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Monday to Friday, and citizens are often required to take a day off for handling personal matters in these government offices, which are scattered around in different districts all over the territory. Although offices of major bureaux are located in the Government Headquarters in Tamar, which is adjacent to the Legislative Council Complex, offices of many other government departments have been or will be relocated to, for example, the Trade and Industry Tower and the new Inland Revenue Tower under construction in the Kai Tak Development Area, hence making it impossible to change the fact that government departments are geographically scattered. I hope that with the future provision of electronic government services, including the implementation of electronic identity system next year, the inconvenience caused to ordinary citizens can be minimized, and instead of visiting various government offices in person to handle different matters, they may enjoy the services without leaving home and without the constraints imposed by the service hours of such offices, thus enjoying real convenience and benefits.
President, apart from the service locations mentioned just now, the introduction of Hangzhou Citizen Card is another measure implemented for the convenience of the people. The smart card was first introduced in 2004, which enabled Hangzhou citizens to seek medical consultation and settle the bill through the city’s medical insurance system, so that they will receive medical treatment before making payment. Similar to the Octopus Card used in Hong Kong, Hangzhou Citizen Card may be used for riding public transport, and it can also be used to obtain other public services, including the borrowing of library materials, etc. Moreover, the card also serves as a financial service card with the launching of “Qianjiang Points”, the personal credit points used as the basis for third party payment, through a wholly-owned subsidiary named Hangzhou Huimin Credit Investigation Company Limited. In this connection, similar services in Hong Kong are still provided by private commercial organizations at present.
The smart identity card introduced in Hong Kong is mainly used for immigration verification, and its use does not cover payment-related services. Although Hong Kong was the first place in the world to develop smart card, but our development in this respect has remained stagnant. We have started using Octopus card since 1997, but its use is so far confined to such purposes as the payment of public transport fares, retail consumption and security access control of properties. According to the information of Juniper Research in 2018, as far as the development of a smart city is concerned, Hong Kong is, not surprisingly, behind major cities in Europe and the United States, and we have also significantly fallen behind other Asian places like Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo, but it is most depressing to learn that we are even lagging behind some Mainland cities like Wuxi, Yinchuan and Hangzhou, etc.
In taking forward the initiative of establishing a smart government in Hong Kong, the element of bringing convenience to the public should be incorporated, and this requires inter-bureau and inter-departmental cooperation and coordination, creative mindset and capacity to manage changes, which are exactly the main points covered in this motion under discussion today. To promote the development of a smart government, we should never solely rely on the Innovation and Technology Bureau. Take the full opening up of data by the Government as an example, as the task required cooperation from other government departments, the Bureau was unable even to provide us with a concrete timetable for implementation. I hope that the Government would draw reference from the successful experiences of other advanced cities, and make concerted internal efforts to expeditiously promote the application, research and development of innovation and technology.
The Civil Service Bureau sets out in its website the five core values of the civil service, namely Simple, Positive Thinking, Fairness, Partnership and Learning. Judging from the current situation, I think the first core value concerning simplicity is particularly important. In other words, civil servants should abolish some unimportant or unnecessary works, rules or work procedures, because this has much to do with the people-oriented approach adopted in serving the public. If civil servants can always execute their duties from the perspective of public interests, rather than from the perspective of bringing convenience to themselves, I am sure that our civil service team will be able to maintain their reputation for performing with the highest administrative efficiency in the world, they will also be able to win the recognition of Hong Kong people.
I so submit. Thank you, President.