Editorial : A new cultural bureau in the government revamp

【明報專訊】THE reorganisation of the government's structure has again been placed on the agenda. The Chief Executive has announced that, in the upcoming policy address next month, the establishment of a cultural bureau and the division of the Transport and Housing Bureau into two bureaus will be mentioned. The policy making structure of a government should reflect the practical needs of society. With the land and housing problem being the most urgent task to tackle, the separation of transport and housing affairs is long overdue. Many big cities in the world have designated government departments in charge of promoting the development of cultural work and the cultural industry. By contrast, Hong Kong has so far lacked the related supporting measures. The handling of the city's cultural affairs has been scattered across various departments. There has been neither an overall strategy nor a macroscopic vision. As the central government's 14th five-year plan has mentioned supporting the development of Hong Kong into an exchange centre for Chinese and foreign cultures and arts, the establishment of the cultural bureau will be a substantial step towards formulating the vision blueprint and the development strategy concerned. The authorities should engage more with the stakeholders of the industry to clearly define the cultural bureau's functions.

At a consultation session for the policy address a few days ago, Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor mentioned setting up a designated cultural bureau to handle cultural affairs and separating the policy work of transport and housing affairs. It is possible that legislation on the government's restructuring will be completed by the end of the current government's term. That means the next SAR government's structure will be changed from "3 Departments and 13 Bureaus" to "3 Departments and 15 Bureaus".

Housing is at the core of deep-rooted conflicts in Hong Kong society. However, advice on housing and transport, the two major fields of policy work related to people's livelihood, has long been concentrated on a single policy bureau. Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, former Secretary for Transport and Housing, had expected to dedicate more time to handling the housing problem before he assumed office. But it turned out that he had to put in much effort in dealing with transportation issues such as the cost overruns of MTR projects. Despite the intertwined relationship between housing and the land problem of Hong Kong, the two have been separated and handed to the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) and the Development Bureau (DevB) respectively. The proposed "separation surgery" of the THB is only one part of reshuffling the policy making structure for land and housing. The DevB should also be included in the entire restructuring.

Around the globe, many regions and cities have designated government departments to coordinate and support the development of cultural work and the cultural industry, examples being the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA) of South Korea, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DOCA) of Taipei, and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) of Singapore. The sweeping popularity of the Korean Wave in Asia over the past decade has largely been due to the government's policy related to the cultural industry. By comparison, Hong Kong lags far behind in this regard.

At present, the Hong Kong government has three policy bureaus to follow up issues on culture and arts. The Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) theoretically carries out the function of cultural policy making. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) is in charge of the film industry and other creative industries. The DevB is responsible for the policy function of heritage conservation. However, as the HAB has to take care of a wide range of affairs, it is not devoted to promoting cultural work. Worse still, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and District offices under its charge are mainly positioned at providing recreation and sports. The annual book fair should be a great cultural event for the city, but because of its organisation by the Trade Development Council (TDC) under the CEDB, the occasion looks more like a "clearance sale" of books in practice.

The authorities should be far-sighted and plan early. They should take the initiative to provide training to cultivate more talents. If the authorities can get the horses for courses and understand more about the thoughts and needs of the industry's stakeholders, the new cultural bureau should be able to play a significant role.

明報社評2021.09.14:政府架構重組再出發 設立文化局對症下藥








■Glossary 生字

reorganisation : the act or process of changing the way in which something is organised or done

deep-rooted : very fixed and strong; difficult to change or to destroy

reshuffle : a change in the jobs that a group of people do, for example in a government

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