Editorial:HK Productivity Council not quite productive

【明報專訊】THE Hong Kong Productivity Council has a responsibility to help manufacturers perfect their management performance and enhance their productivity. However, the latest Director of Audit's Report shows that the Council has to remedy its own problems such as disorganisation and a perfunctory culture. The Council has to enhance its own productivity.

The Council was created more than half a century ago. Some of its expenses are subsidised by the government, while the others are covered by fees it receives for its services, such as management consultancy for corporations, manpower training and product testing. The responsibility of the Council is to support corporations' development of high-value-added products and services to enhance their international competitiveness. In 2015, the government proposed the idea of ''reindustrialisation'' in the hope of making use of innovation and technology to facilitate Hong Kong's development of advanced manufacturing and help corporations upgrade and transform themselves. One direction was to encourage existing corporations to add elements of innovation and technology to enhance quality and efficiency. In recent years, the Council has often talked loftily about supporting the ''digital transformation'' of local corporations and their ''smart development'' and helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) make use of artificial intelligence and big data to enhance their productivity.

The Council is supposed to commit itself to enhancing productivity. However, judging from the Director of Audit's Report, the Council should put its own house in order first. It should make a serious effort to enhance management within itself, pay more attention to cost efficiency and remedy the undesirable situation of haphazardness. According to the report, the Council has completed 4,299 consultancy projects over the past five years. However, in 25% of these projects, the full cost was not recovered, resulting in a total loss of $33 million. The law stipulates that the Council has to ensure that it can recover all the cost before it takes on projects outside Hong Kong. However, the report finds that, over the past five years, in nearly 40% of the Council's overseas projects the full cost was not recovered.

It is necessary for Hong Kong to promote the development of innovation and technology. ''Reindustrialisation'' is also a step in the right direction. The government has to speed up the development. But at the same time, it should pay attention to the problem of a bloated bureaucracy. The development of innovation and technology is closely related to reindustrialisation, but they have different emphases. The development of innovation and technology is primarily about promoting scientific research and is high up on the industry chain. Reindustrialisation is mainly about merchandising and mass-producing the outcomes of research and development, and this belongs to the middle and lower parts of the chain. Theoretically, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp is focused on the former, while the Council's attention is more on the latter. But in practice an overlap of roles is very likely. Furthermore, some of the Council's work (such as organising visits by representatives of SMEs to Southeast Asia in exploration of business opportunities, helping with the training of teachers and helping secondary schools implement STEM programmes) seems to overlap with the duties of other departments.

Both the development of innovation and technology and reindustrialisation emphasise the ''integration of commerce and academia''. Whether the best way to achieve this goal is to let different organisations work on their own is a question that deserves review itself. The government should conduct a comprehensive and in-depth review of the role played by the Council in promoting reindustrialisation, its performance and the need for reform. All options — from strengthening its roles, streamlining and integration, and even keeping or discarding anything — should be on the table.

明報社評 2019.11.28:生產力局要先改善自身生產力


生產力局成立超過半世紀,部分經費由政府資助,其餘則來自服務收費,包括向企業提供管理顧問、人力培訓和產品檢測服務等。生產力局的責任,是支援企業發展高增值產品服務,提升國際競爭力。2015 年,政府提出「再工業化」,希望運用創新科技,帶動香港發展先進製造業、協助企業升級轉型,方向之一是鼓勵現有產業加入創新科技元素,提高品質和效率,近年生產力局也經常大談支援本港企業實現「數碼轉型」、推動「智能發展」、協助中小企應用人工智能和大數據提升生產力。





put your own house in order:to organise your own business or improve your own behaviour before you try to criticise sb else

bloated:if you describe an organisation as bloated, you mean that it is too big and does not work effectively

on the table:if you put something on the table, you present it at a meeting for it to be discussed

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