Chambers of Commerce to CE: ‘Minister of Business’ and Press Freedom

The HKSAR Government should step up green initiatives and ensure a business-friendly regulatory environment according to the Canadian and British Chambers of Commerce. Press freedoms and new ideas are also on their mind.


Foreign business communities in Hong Kong have put forward their suggestions to CY Leung regarding the upcoming Policy Address. HT looks at the ideas  proposed by The British Chamber of Commerce (BCCHK) and The Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCCHK), which focus on Hong Kong’s business regulatory regime, green initiatives and education policies. 

February will tell if the CE is listening to international business that contributes so much to Hong Kong’s development.

 

On business

It is not surprising that the BCCHK and CCCHK prioritise  business-related issues in their submissions to the administration.

To begin with, the BCCHK steals the spotlight by recommending the appointment of a ‘Minister of Business’ who would be comparable to a ‘mayor’ for the business community to enhance competitiveness, efficiency and effectiveness in the sector. The role would also be responsible to nurture small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups.

Meanwhile, both Chambers express concerns over an increasingly excessive regulatory regime, with the CCC stating:

“[N]ew requirements on information exchanges, tax, Anti-Money Laundering and investment suitability have impacted client experience, increased the need for compliance resources and investment on system automation. Some of the requirements have become excessive.”

It suggests the Financial Services Development Council should coordinate various regulatory requirements to avoid overlap while its British counterpart proposes the establishment of a “transparent and cross-sector regulatory impact assessments” with a format similar to the Environmental Impact Assessment system.

On an international scale, the Government is urged to seek accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (should it be ratified) and to further the interests of the business sector upon introduction of the Automatic Exchange of Information and Common Reporting Standards enhanced by the OECD.

 

On MPF and infrastructure projects

The British Chamber does not shy away from commenting on the more controversial issue of the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF), advocating the reform of the system with measures including “increasing both compulsory and voluntary contributions; a simplification of the scheme; reducing fees and increasing their transparency; extending participation by temporary and excluded workers; and reviewing the right of offset against severance and long service payments.”

It also touches upon possible solutions to Hong Kong’s delayed and cost overrun infrastructure projects, calling on the Government to embrace new technology for the construction industry while funding essential infrastructural projects with bonds instead of cash.

 

On green initiatives

Another focus of the two Chambers is Hong Kong’s green policy. The CCCHK looks at environmental issues in terms of air pollution, building energy efficiency and waste management. In particular, it claims Hong Kong is “one of the most wasteful, least recycling, population centres in North-East Asia, with Taiwan, South Korea and Japan being far ahead in achieving world-class waste management practices”. Recommendations includes greater focus on electronic road pricing, pedestrian zones, more comprehensive cycle paths, building design, energy efficient appliance application and adoption, and a waste charging system.

 

On education and manpower

Hong Kong’s education is also on the Chambers’ checklists, with high-quality and affordable schooling in both local and international schools as prime concerns. The British Chamber, meanwhile, notes a “regrettable but commensurate decline in the standards of English” and suggests a five-year strategy to address the issue.

The BCCHK also proposes a controlled and targeted labour importation scheme, including “expansion of recruiting suitably qualified doctors and nurses from appropriate oversea jurisdictions,” to fill the widening labour and skills gap.

 

On press freedom

It is perhaps the Canadian Chamber that makes the most unusual call, warning on Hong Kong’s deteriorating press freedom.

“CanCham would like to see the government take proactive steps to reverse the ongoing degradation of Hong Kong’s press freedom. A free press is essential to fostering a robust and efficient business environment and has historically been a source of great strength for Hong Kong,” the submission reads.

 

Stay tuned with us for a pre-analysis on CY Leung’s Policy Address 2016!

 

Full submissions are available at: https://www.britcham.com/publications/chamber-submissions (BCC) and http://www.cancham.org/?page=ArtRepo (CCC)

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Alex Fok is a Harbour Times journalist monitoring Hong Kong’s daily political scene and diplomatic updates. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Economics, Politics and International Studies from University of Warwick and his master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a former committee member of the Warwick-based Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society (WHKPASS) and was the chief editor of the society’s magazine – PASSTIMES.
afharbourtimes
afharbourtimes the author

Alex Fok is a Harbour Times journalist monitoring Hong Kong's daily political scene and diplomatic updates. He obtained his bachelor's degree in Economics, Politics and International Studies from University of Warwick and his master's degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a former committee member of the Warwick-based Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society (WHKPASS) and was the chief editor of the society's magazine - PASSTIMES.