Another new year is around the corner. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The economic figures for Hong Kong in the third quarter of this year are still disappointing and it may not be any better in the fourth quarter. External factors are of course beyond our control, but we can look inward and find something that can see us through the difficult times ?our will and determination to improve ourselves continuously. It is time we exercised such a determination.
Recently and for the first time, the Chief Executive expressed his opinion on the Value for Money Audit Report released by the Director of Audit. He stated his position clearly when he said that slack staff, slack management and wasting of public money would not be tolerated.
In fact, earlier on in the debate on the Policy Address on 22 October 1998, I have already made the point that what the public saw was a civil service that could "do no wrong, take no blame, and receive no punishment". Also, in the LegCo meeting on 10 March 1999, I motioned the debate on "civil service culture and efficiency". In that debate, I argued that "little [could] be achieved without a reform". I said, too, that I "simply hope[d] to point clearly to a positive direction for reform, and expect[ed] the government to meet the high aspirations of the people by reinforcing the already strong foundations of the present system so as to maintain and even enhance its 'value'."
Now that the surrounding political and economic environment is changing for the better, can civil servants play their roles the same old way? Can they "stay in the greenhouse with no thought of improvement"?
What is more, the middle-class professionals are dealt an unprecedented blow. Unlike people at the grass-root level, who can rely on public housing and the social security allowance as a safety net, the middle-class professionals have nothing to protect them if they become negative-equity owners or unemployed. Therefore, the government must set up a mechanism to help solve this urgent problem. Developed countries like the UK and the US have all established such a mechanism. Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city and our GDP ranks among the highest in the world. The government cannot, and must not, turn a blind eye to the situation, or watch helplessly and do nothing.
Eric Li Ka-cheung
＊ Win a prize
Background: The "structural deficit" issue was first raised in a motion debate at the LegCo on 10 November 1999. If you are able to spot anyone using the phrase "structural deficit" in the media before that date, you can get a souvenir.
Eligibility: Members of the Hong Kong Society of Accountants (Fax: 28275086; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
聖誕快樂 Merry Christmas &
並賀新禧 Happy New Year
COMMITMENT AT THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
＊ Bills Committees and Subcommittees I recently joined as a new member (As on 30 November 2001)
＊ Bills Committee on Inland Revenue (Amendment) Bill 2001
＊ Bills Committee on Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (Amendment) Bill 2001
＊ Subcommittee on Solicitors (Professional Indemnity) (Amendment) Rules 2001
＊ Subcommittee on Occupational Safety and Health (Display Screen Equipment) Regulation (attending meeting)
Questions Raised and Debates Attended
＊ Steel-based load-bearing buildings (Supplementary question raised at the Legislative Council meeting on 7 November 2001)
＊ The pessimistic mood of foreign investors over the prospects of the local economy (Supplementary question raised at the Legislative Council meeting on 21 November 2001)
＊ Reducing the fares of various public transport services (Speech delivered at the Legislative Council debate on 14 November 2001)
＊ The Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2001 (Summary of speech at the Legislative Council meeting on 28 November 2001)
＊ Direct survey of views of foreign investors on local business environment (Supplementary question raised at the Legislative Council meeting on 21 November 2001)
＊ Worries about the use of political pressure on business operations (Summary of the speech delivered at the Legislative Council debate on "Reducing the fares of various public transport" on 14 November 2001)
＊ Strong reservations about statutory defence clause (Speech at the Bills Committee on Drug Trafficking and Organized Crimes (Amendment) Bill 2000 on 4 May 2001)
＊ How the government assesses the merits of individual proposals (Speech at the special meeting of the Panel on Financial Affairs on 26 September 2001)
＊ Occupational Safety and Health (Display Screen Equipment) Regulation affects SMEs
ADVICE FOR ACTION
＊ Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
- Donald Tsang: the partnership between Government and the Committee helps maintain the high efficiency and accountability of the public service
- Chief Executive's first high-profile response to the Audit Commission's report since in office: "practices intolerable and investigation needed"
- The "barely satisfactory" civil service reform should be implemented shortly
- Eric Li said the Chief Executive's response would enhance accountability culture within the civil service
- The Central government encouraged mainland enterprises to use Hong Kong as a springboard for international expansion
- Seek to serve as a springboard for international investment
- Professionals from both sides collaborate to explore business opportunities
- Government should float bonds
- Issue of bonds and financial restructuring to revive the property market
- KCRC's goal: to get listed on the Stock Exchange
- Is it possible to defer payment of provisional tax?
- Suspend the collection of provisional tax to relieve pressure on middle-income earners
- Eric Li suggested deferring payment of salaries tax for a year
- $60.7 billion budget deficit for half a year "expected"
- Criteria must be set up for Continuing Education Fund to train talents who can bring economic benefits to the society
- Relax restrictions on the $100 million Professional Services Development Funding Scheme to attract applicants from different sectors
- Eric Li invited by Lingnan University to deliver a seminar on the Chinese market
A thank-you letter from the Hong Kong Outstanding Tertiary Students' Services Association
＊ A thank-you letter to Eric Li Ka-cheung was received from the Civil Service Training and Development Institute for his participation in the seminar on "Working relationship between the government and political parties"
＊ Response to the Policy Address
- Support for moving in the direction of accountability
- To accommodate the need of professionals
- Eric Li: intention to follow through reform in the long term
- Middle-income earners ignored
- Relief Measures not strong enough
- Eight Political Parties urged the Chief Executive to relieve people's hardships
＊ Legislators transformed into IT professionals
＊ Eric Li: business in the sector dropped by 20% to 30% Employees likely to be laid-off
＊ Sector jobs cuts not surprising
＊ Eric Li: reduce middle level staff and train entry level staff
＊ Mrs Regina Ip and Eric Li encouraged youngsters to better equip themselves to meet challenges at the inauguration ceremony of the Hong Kong Youth Leaders
＊ New "instant-profit-instant-tax" taxation system A nuisance to employers and discredited by experts
＊ Curb proliferation of directorate posts
＊ Government should be held responsible for the accountability of the senior management of KCRC
＊ Explanation of the accountability relationship between the government and KCRC sought
＊ KCRC Chairman should not receive an honorarium