November 16, 2005

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Sir Donald Appleby

Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes Minister on committees:

Well, it's clear that the committee has agreed that your new policy is a really excellent plan but in view of some of the doubts being expressed, may I propose that I recall that after careful consideration, the considered view of the committee was that while they considered that the proposal met with broad approval in principle, that some of the principles were sufficiently fundamental in principle and some of the considerations so complex and finely balanced in practice, that, in principle, it was proposed that the sensible and prudent practice would be to submit the proposal for more detailed consideration, laying stress on the essential continuity of the new proposal with existing principles, and the principle of the principle arguments which the proposal proposes and propounds for their approval, in principle.
Donald Tsang's expanded Commission on Strategic Devlopment has 153 members, only 10% of whom are democrats, even though they are around 40% of the imperfect Legco. But it's not about the numbers:
A government source said the purpose of the body is to engage in lively debate - not to reach consensus agreement. "It'll serve as a useful vehicle for meaningful exchanges. So democrats should not focus on their numbers but whether they can offer outstanding views," the source said.

"With the enhanced role of the commission," Tsang said, "we will spend more time with the public in discussing preliminary policy ideas before we formulate a policy." He likened the commission to the role that yeast plays in baking bread saying the discussions will yield a "soft, fluffy loaf" of policy, acceptable to all.

More like a souffle. Isn't the idea the policies are fashioned via consultation with the public, legislators and key stakeholders? What are civil servants, the chocolate chips? Isn't this committee merely doubling up on work that should be done by Legco? Will the public servants who formulate policy (and in Hong Kong, they formulate as well as implement) be happy with a renewed committee adding their $0.02 on every policy?

Of course they will be - it was their idea to restart this committee in the first place. Much better to have an unwieldly group of 153 going nowhere fast rather than listening to those pesky members of the public. Souffles do not rise twice.

posted by Simon on 11.16.05 at 09:31 AM in the Hong Kong category.


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