Businesses ought to work for the public's progress

Updated: 2017-03-24 07:11

(HK Edition)

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Small businesses are a spoiled bunch in Hong Kong. Any plan to impose a new levy or raise current charges, no matter how justified they may be, would almost certainly invite complaints from small businesses with the threat to pass on the extra costs to consumers.

The business sector's objection to the government's latest proposal to introduce a waste charging scheme is, unsurprisingly, true to form. Owners of restaurants, which are some of the biggest waste generators, have questioned the effectiveness of the scheme in reducing trash at the source, saying it would only hurt consumers who would be asked to bear the extra cost - ranging from HK$15,000 to HK$20,000 a month per restaurant.

In fact, the business sector has been citing consumers' interests in its fight against most other legislative initiatives that seek to improve workers' benefits and the environment. In so doing, the business quarter and its advocates have only succeeded in alienating consumers rather than rallying their sympathy and support.

The Hong Kong government has been talking about levying a waste disposal fee for many years. It is, after all, a common practice in many other developed economies. Besides, public opinion favors such a plan which is widely seen as fair and impartial.

Some businesses may raise their prices to cover the extra cost of waste disposal. But, they have to bear in mind that acting in collusion in fixing prices is an offense under Hong Kong law. There's nothing to stop customers from switching to other competitors who reckon it would make better business sense to absorb any new charges.

Pro-business politicians often argue that extra costs can threaten the survival of many small enterprises which, they say, are operating on razor-thin profit margins. They may have a point, but the validity of that argument has faded along with the decline of the non-interventionist economic policy.

It's time the business sector reconciled with mounting public demand for positive government action to make greater progress in improving the environment and raising social benefits.

 Businesses ought to work for the public's progress

Waste disposal charges are adopted in many developed economies, and Hong Kong shouldn't be an exception when it comes to improving the environment for the benefit of the public. Provided to China Daily

(HK Edition 03/24/2017 page9)