Carts and horses

Anyone can put the cart in front of the horse. It takes far more flair and ingenuity to take the wheels off the cart and roll them away in different directions, then turn the horse upside down and place it at an angle to the side of the now-immobile carriage.

Economist Richard Wong identifies a very real problem in Hong Kong: the dismal quality of policy secretaries – the minister/cabinet-level officials who run major portfolios like finance, education, transport, etc. Perhaps out of deference to official establishment reasoning, the HKU professor blames this on the supposed ‘shortage of political talent’ bemoaned by Chief Executives past and present.

Specifically, he blames the electoral system for channeling proponents of vested interests into the legislature, and the outdated use of seats on advisory bodies as rewards for shoe-shiners. Both these features are designed to reduce popular representation and bolster Beijing loyalists’ presence. He also blames the ‘heat in the kitchen’ that is an inevitable result – not cause – of the crap governance.

He shies away from the real cause of Hong Kong’s talent-starved governance.

There are very smart people out there among elected politicians, activists and professionals (eg…). They could significantly boost Hong Kong’s policymaking capacity, if they were allowed to take part – but they’re not.

They are excluded because they are not in the pro-Beijing/establishment milieu. They are not necessarily barred because they are outspoken anti-Beijing critics, but because they question things and have their own ideas. You can’t be in the pro-Beijing camp if you question things and have your own ideas. But you can’t be in government unless you are in the pro-Beijing camp – or you are so ideologically inert (and obviously ideas-free) that it doesn’t matter. Since actual pro-Beijing people (think DAB lawmakers) are so underwhelming in basic work/life/people skills, we are left with only one option: rule by civil servants who are competent administrators but utterly devoid of ideas.

Richard Wong’s solution: reintroduce pensions for civil servants, so more of them will stay on and become ministers.

Don’t ask.

On a more inspiring note: today’s ‘Best Use of a Corny Elton John Song to Help Everyone Keep Up’ Award goes to this splendid work.


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6 Responses to Carts and horses

  1. What would talented mean for you? More neo-liberal? More capialist? You forget what most people learn in Hong Kong after a week: If they could do the job, they wouldn’t be there. That’s endemic in ambitious, amateur, muddled Hong Kong.

    I was hoping you would comment on the latest brave Russian attempt to show the world that spies are nasty and real and not gentlemen.

    Sadly, innocents often get harmed when spies have to be wiped out. Yet I am still all in favour of euthanising spies. We must have twenty at the US consulate in Hong Kong right now, up there on the top floor behind the mirror windows, helping keep the Cold War alive and preparing for more hot wars. I wonder how many people the CIA and their henchmen have rubbed out just this past week in Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

    We probably have double or triple the number of British agents scattered and embedded in Hong Kong, spinning lies, whipping up anti-Mainland hysteria and going on about democracy. Bring on the Porton Down inventions, there are so many of them. The Brits shine in producing nerve agents. Kim’s brother was killed by a British poison after all.

    To echo Diderot, humanity will only be free when the last intelligence officer has been strangled with the entrails of the last neo-liberal.

  2. LRE says:

    I have ranted about Richard Wong’s outstanding stupidity before.

    Suffice to say the very first person he mentions in his article, expounding on how pre-handover civil service pensions is the best incentive for good, innovative and non-corrupt leadership, is one Donald Tsang Yam Kuen, recipient of both a pre-handover civil service pension and a custodial sentence for bribery and corruption.

    It would seem the pension did not deter the winner of the coveted Highest Official in Hong Kong To Do Jail Time for Corruption Award (AKA The Grand Bundles-in-a-Jiffy-bag Medal) in the slightest.

    I am beginning to wonder if he just does his job ironically.

    Whilst we’re talking irony: his job title of “Philip Wong Kennedy Wong Professor in Political Economy” is funded by a pro-dictatorship lawyer who got arrested for bribery and basically admitted it, but weaselled off it on a technicality. I wonder if “political economy” is just a euphemism…

  3. Cassowary says:

    “Since actual pro-Beijing people (think DAB lawmakers) are so underwhelming in basic work/life/people skills, we are left with only one option: rule by civil servants who are competent administrators but utterly devoid of ideas.”

    There are a few mid-level civil servants who are itching to try something new but the best they can usually accomplish is to slide a pilot project by their boss before somebody notices. Those who last a long time have either got to abandon all hope, resign themselves to a lifetime of maddening bureaucracy-fu, or be the sort of person whose ideal career involves the interminable ticking of boxes in the first place.

    Occasionally you see a small, brief flash of creativity when some long frustrated bureaucrat makes department head just a few years shy of retirement and figures they haven’t got anything to lose. And then they’re gone, the ship rights itself, and it’s as though nothing ever happened.

    @LRE: We are talking about the guy who thinks that public housing causes divorce. Can’t expect too much sense from him.

  4. Old Newcomer says:

    @Adams – free to do what Emperor Xi tells them? Come off it, you leftie poseur. Do you think only the west has spies? China has probably the biggest intelligence-gathering system on the planet.

  5. Headache says:

    More pizza-cutter stuff from Adams: all edge, no point.

  6. hank morgan says:

    Adams?: ‘You forget what most people learn in Hell after a week!’

    ON: noticed you didn’t say best

    H: pizza-cutter, good one

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