Dr Charles YEUNG (Chairman of the 48th, 49th terms of office) March 2015
At the beginning of the Year of the Goat, the Financial Secretary presented a Budget that can address both economic development and improvement in people’s livelihood, injecting impetus for Hong Kong’s long-term stability and on-going development. Meanwhile, with the HKSAR Government’s second round public consultation on the 2017 Chief Executive (CE) election by universal suffrage ended early this month, the “Five-step Process” of constitutional development is moving towards the critical third step. I sincerely hope that in the Year of the Goat, all sectors in society can be in harmony to support policy measures in the Budget and endorse the constitutional reform package, striving for effective governance and social harmony - which is essential to the social stability and harmony of Hong Kong as well as its prosperous development.
More Support for SMEs and Further Industry Diversification
We are pleased to see the Budget proposing measures to support businesses amid external economic uncertainties. In particular, the expansion of fiscal support for SMEs can not only relieve their pressure from operating cost hikes but also help stabilize the job market. For the long run, we suggest the HKSAR Government explore further cuts on the profits tax rate for SMEs to ease their operational burden. Moreover, by offering special short-term measures that help industries hit by the occupy movement, the Budget evidences the HKSAR Government’s concern for business sectors and can create a SME-friendly environment.
Also proposed in the Budget are measures on consolidating the growth of traditional pillar industries such as finance, tourism, trade, logistics and commercial and professional services and on enhancing support for cultural & creative and budding industries like innovative technology and fashion. Meanwhile, there are proposals complementing the national development strategies of “One Belt and One Road”. While CGCC will fully support the HKSAR Government’s policy direction of promoting the more diversified and high value-added development of Hong Kong’s economy, the authorities are expected to provide more concrete support for industries. For instance, the application limits for innovation and technology funds and other related industry funds can be further relaxed. A “One Belt and One Road” exchange platform can be set up to encourage interaction between the Mainland and Hong Kong enterprises in tapping huge business opportunities in places along the belt and the road, such as ASEAN.
Cooperating Towards Universal Suffrage for CE Election
Besides supporting Hong Kong’s economic diversification, CGCC also pays close attention to Hong Kong’s constitutional development. We agree that the CE election by universal suffrage must be in strict accordance with the Basic Law and the NPCSC’s “August 31 Decision”. Only by this can the Basic Law obligations and requirements with respect to CE be effectively fulfilled within the constitutional framework, so that a legal basis can be formed for promoting the CE election by universal suffrage.
In fact, CGCC has done a lot to push forward Hong Kong’s constitutional development. Forums and seminars have been held to facilitate exchange of views between the HKSAR Government and the business community. Through issuing public statements and taking part in signature campaigns, we have expressed our opposition against the Occupy Central movement, as well as our support for the CE election by universal suffrage. Earlier, we have presented a position paper to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau on the Consultation Document on the Method for Selecting CE.
It is the common aspiration of the Central Government, the HKSAR Government and most Hong Kong people to see universal suffrage for the CE election happen in 2017. Many opinion polls have shown that the mainstream public opinion is in favour of the passage of a constitutional reform package, as a step forward in Hong Kong’s constitutional development will be conducive to the Hong Kong society’s overall development. Therefore, we hope all sectors in society will support a reform package that complies with the Basic Law and the NPCSC Decision, in which the composition and formation method of the Nominating Committee (NC) shall follow the related arrangements of the existing Election Committee. The arrangements are already in force for years and proved to be effective with a wide coverage over all social strata. The authorities may consider lowering the nomination threshold to encourage the participation of more people from various sectors, provided that a person must have the endorsement of more than half of the NC members before becoming a CE candidate, so as to reflect the collective will of “majority rules”.
Furthermore, we recommend that in the “one-person-one-vote” election, the “first past the post” voting system, which does not require more than half of the total number of votes, should be adopted. This arrangement is simple to operate, easy for voters to understand, and involves lower administrative costs.
To sum up, in the Year of the Goat, CGCC will remain supportive to CE’s and the HKSAR Government’s administration according to the law. As a chamber of commerce, we will strength our network and roles in promoting the steady development of Hong Kong’s economy. Furthermore, we hope all sectors in society can put the overall and long-term interests of Hong Kong first, and work towards a win-win result by discussing and facilitating the implementation of a constitutional reform package in a rational, pragmatic manner according to the Basic Law and the NPCSC Decision. Let’s join hands to realize a “one-person-one-vote” CE election by universal suffrage in 2017, writing a significant chapter for Hong Kong’s constitutional development. This is how we can make the Year of the Goat a truly jubilant one for the Hong Kong society and its people.