Ip slams rank-linked 'colonial mentality'

Top News | Sum Lok-kei 21 Nov 2017

Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has slammed the government's overemphasis on international competitiveness rankings, branding it "colonial-era thinking."

At a Legislative Council public service panel meeting yesterday, officials from the financial secretary's office explained to lawmakers why they want to create a principal economist position under its economic analysis and business facilitation unit.

The annual salary of the post is set at HK$2 million, with duties including liaising with ranking institutes and providing analysis in areas related to economic development to strengthen competitiveness.

According to a document the government submitted to the panel, global rankings are of "paramount importance to its international image and attractiveness to foreign investment."

The city is sixth in this year's Global Competitiveness Index.

However, Ip sees the competitiveness ranking and actual competitiveness as two different things.

Ip felt particularly upset about a paragraph in the document which says if Hong Kong loses its leading position in competitiveness rankings, its image as a global financial and business hub would inevitably be dented.

She said: "Do these rankings decide our strengths? This is too passive and ridiculous. To put it bluntly, this is some of the kind of thinking left over from the colonial era. Do we need foreigners to decide our strengths?"

Ip said she will not support the request unless the government "takes back those words."

She also doubts if the extra post is necessary, saying the office has only recently created a deputy economist post and raised the salary of its government economist.

To usher in new ideas, the government should consider recruiting from outside, instead of creating "promotional posts" that only benefit civil servants, she said.

Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Aron Kwok Wai-keung echoed Ip's sentiments, saying that the task may require trained experts instead of civil servants.

Acting government economist Andrew Au Sik-hung said the government has an established procedure to find a candidate for the post, but will first search internally.

Should no candidate be found this way, he said the office will try other means.

He said the proposed principal government economist will dig into criteria of international rankings and compare Hong Kong's strengths and weaknesses.

The request will be next dealt with by Legco's establishment subcommittee.

Only with the subcommittee's approval will the item be passed to the Finance Committee for funding approval.



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