I would like to pay tribute to the amazing efficiency of Hong Kong’s bureaucracy (I am not being sarcy here).

The clichés about bureaucracies are they are inefficient, tend to pass the buck, mess up and generally waste the average person’s time whenever possible.

Not so, in Hong Kong. (Though HK people still whine about the bureaucracy. But they are just fatted. They need a crash-course in other countries).

Yesterday, I wanted to contact the Immigration Department with a query. Because I am allergic to calling, I decided to email their general enquiry email address. Imagine by shock and awe when two hours later I found a personalized response in my inbox answering all my questions. WITHIN TWO HOURS. I almost died.

Now, I could dismiss this as a one-off. Only I needed a further clarification so I emailed them again this morning. Again, a response awaited me within a couple of hours. If I could bake, I’d send them a cake (oooh, a rhyme!)

Compare this to say, oh, the US Consulate in Hong Kong which if emailed sends back an automated response that has completely no relevance to the question asked. If you decide to speak to an officer, you will be CHARGED A FEE for your call. I do not seriously believe the US Consulate is deliberately giving stupid answers via email in order to earn money from charging for calls. However, I do believe they think it’s ok to fob people off with stupid answers because people are used to bureaucracy behaving in this way.

Well, take a leaf out of HK guys before calling yourself the most developed country in the world. My sister has run circles and shelled out good money to get her name on her passport corrected in the US and it was messed up twice and with much delay.

Again, compare that with HK Immigration which makes life easy even for dufuses. By which I mean dufuses like me who lose their HK ID card, the document that is like a passport in Hong Kong and needed for everything. The process of acquiring a new one took a couple of hours at immigration and a couple of weeks max for the new card. In the interim, a provisional sticker was issued ON THE SAME DAY. They even take your photo for the card right there, encouraging you to comb your hair and retake the photo if it doesn’t come out properly.

A visa for my helper was issued in two weeks, so fast that my helper was caught unawares in the Philippines. And hers was a slightly more complicated case because she broke her previous contract. All it took was a letter from me requesting they speed up the process because I’m pregnant and would be alone when my husband travels on work. The usual time for processing a visa is four weeks… and they generally do it sooner.

If you’re under the impression that it’s only the Immigration Department that is efficient, consider the Income Tax Department. Returns can be filed entirely online. It is so simple that even I can do it myself. You receive e-alerts when your returns are due. You can generate an estimate of tax to be paid also online. The first year I was here I decided to email the Department with a query. They do not do emailed responses. A real live person called me back and answered by query within a few days.

I really don’t know how Hong Kong does this. But they do. And if they can, I don’t see why other can’t.

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