Pointing out that the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) had been overwhelmed by heavy workload over the past year, Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan suggested recently that splitting up the bureau into two entities might prove useful.
However, shortly afterwards Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in public that she has no plan to reorganize the government structure at this point because her administration is already having its hands full dealing with other policy issues.
In my opinion, such task, however, needs to be undertaken as soon as possible, as reorganizing the government structure involves a lot of complex procedures and work.
Last year, I moved a motion in the Legislative Council calling for a review and reorganization of the government structure, urging the administration to examine the policy portfolios, functions and work objectives of the various policy bureaus, and then carry out structural reorganization accordingly so as to optimize the use of public resources and make sure public governance can meet the needs of social development.
The THB epitomizes the kind of seriously imbalanced workloads and responsibilities among the different policy branches within our government.
Not only is the THB charged with formulating and implementing housing and transport policies simultaneously, it also has to be responsible for the development of transportation policies such as shipping and logistics, on top of infrastructure development, not to mention dealing with the series of issues and scandals recently in relation to the city’s infrastructure projects.
Nevertheless, although it is beyond dispute that reorganizing our policy bureaus is a means to substantially enhance the efficiency and efficacy of public governance, it is far from a silver bullet for fixing all the problems with our bureaucracy.
It is because on many occasions, it is often poor inter-departmental cooperation within the government on matters related to policy implementation, rather than imbalanced workloads among the policy bureaus, which leads to inefficacies in policy execution.
As the government is going to handle quite a number of pressing policy issues in the coming days, such as setting up a network of urban waste collection and recycling facilities, smart-city development, etc, all of which require the concerted efforts of more than one policy bureau, it is very important for the administration to lay down clear mechanism on elevating the ability of inter-departmental policy coordination and execution as soon as possible.
During her chief executive election campaign, Lam spoke about the need to carry out reforms in the government structure. She said she would consider pushing some proposals after further listening to views from every sector in society.
With one year having passed since she took office, it’s undoubtedly time now for Lam to deliver on her election promise.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 6
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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