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Tsang: Business can help shape HK's future
By Tonny Chan (China Daily HK Edition)
Updated: 2004-06-17 10:36

Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang has urged the business sector to participate in politics proactively to help shape the SAR's future.

The business community may even want to lobby political parties to champion their causes.

Tsang made the call at the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) luncheon yesterday.

He said the business community should become a more organized and disciplined facet of Hong Kong's open political landscape, pointing out that economic and political developments were inter-related.

The approach of business had been rather "reactive, conservative and behind-the-scenes" so far, he said.

Tsang warned that this attitude could be counter-productive at a time when society was divided over the pace and form of political development and when an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust still prevailed.

"We are trying to build a consensus across all sectors of society, and we cannot do that without the input of the business sector," Tsang said. "So, now is the time for business to step up to the plate if it wants to help shape Hong Kong's future."

"Business needs to speak up -- publicly, collectively and coherently," he said.

Tsang told the chief executives and top managers at the luncheon that as the SAR headed down the road to the ultimate end of electing all legislators by universal suffrage, it was inevitable for functional constituencies to evolve in the course.

"The business community as a whole needs to start thinking about how it deals with this change. It must be prepared to get more involved," he said. "For example, business can do more to nurture and support political talent and parties. Business can do more to establish or support research institutes or think-tanks that in turn would help to lift the quality of policy debate and deliberation in Hong Kong."

He said that if the business sector wanted political parties to champion their cause, they should engage political parties and convince them why their cause was good for Hong Kong and the people.

"Business needs to take a more proactive approach in stating and explaining its legitimate causes while at the same time engaging the public by explaining how and why these causes will benefit the community," he said.

"In my view, a more vocal, community-spirited and transparent business lobby would garner public trust, which in turn would help dispel any misconceptions about collusion, or a political free lunch", he said.

Tsang said the government had been working hard to improve Hong Kong and was changing its style of governance in the face of "short-comings".

He cited a quote from a 13th century humanist: "Make me an instrument of the peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much ask to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand, and to be loved as to love."

Tsang also called on business leaders to do more to help reduce unemployment in the SAR to show to the community that they did embrace their social responsibility and share "a strong sense of partnership with the community".

At a time of high unemployment, the population tended to focus on how government may respond and on the growing divide between the "haves" and the "have nots". He said the government had devoted an unprecedented amount of resources to education, training, retraining, skills upgrading and the establishment of qualifications standards in response.

"I am asking the business community today to do more, to walk an extra mile to treasure, nurture and strengthen our human resources," he said.

"I am asking firms to help retrain their employees before their skills turn obsolete or incompatible with shifts in corporate strategy. A firm can often avoid laying off its loyal employees by absorbing them into other operations," he said.

HKGCC Chief Executive Eden Woon believed the business sector would study Tsang's appeal but it would be unlikely for them to get organized to participate as called for. "It's necessary for all to know what supports are needed first. The business community is willing to participate in some of the supports," he said.

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