SCMP Friday, October 12, 2001

Heeding public opinion set as priority


Mr Tung pledged to maintain a small government which he said needed to become more sensitive to public opinion and react more quickly.
''In the long term, we need to simplify our organisational structure, curb government spending and progressively lower the proportion of public expenditure to gross domestic product,'' he said. ''This will allow free-market forces to come into play.''
Public expenditure is estimated at $290 billion this financial year, equivalent to 21.4 per cent of GDP. The ratio of public expenditure to GDP has grown gradually from about 16 per cent a decade ago.
Measures introduced to streamline the civil service include a voluntary retirement scheme offered this year. So far 9,000 applications have been approved, with the scheme expected to deliver annual savings of almost $1 billion.
The Enhanced Productivity Programme, aimed at increasing productivity, will deliver annual savings of $6 billion in 2002-03.
Mr Tung pledged to encourage civil servants to stay in touch with public needs and swiftly respond to them.
''We need to have a more acute sense of the pulse of the community in formulating our policies. We need to do our consultation work well to ensure that all public views are fully reflected,'' he said.
''Time is of the essence. In today's ever-changing world, we need to make rapid responses to issues as they arise.''
He admitted the Government had not worked efficiently or quickly enough in some cases, partly because of red tape.
Premier Zhu Rongji earlier this year encouraged more decisive decision-making, but denied it was intended as criticism of Mr Tung and his administration.
Mr Tung said he had asked Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung to speed up the way bureaus and departments handled community-related matters.
Cecilia So Chiu-kuen, president of the Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said the Government should not further cut back the civil service as staff were already struggling to deliver services.