Provisional Legislative Council Brief
Helping Business and Promoting Services
The information below was issued to Members of the Executive Council on 10 December 1997.
2.In May we formed a new organisation, the Business and Services Promotion Unit (BSPU), in the Financial Secretary's Office to co-ordinate work on both Programmes. Its head reports direct to the Financial Secretary. The Unit's mission is " To maintain Hong Kong as the best place in the world for business, and premier services centre in the region. "
3.The Business Advisory Group (BAG), chaired by the Financial Secretary, steers the Helping Business Programme which has four major strands :
- cutting red-tape/deregulation
- assessment and reduction of cost of compliance
- transfer of services to the private sector
- introduction of new/improved services in support of the business sector.
4.The first three areas each have a dedicated Sub-group, chaired by a business leader, to oversee the work. The full BAG considers initiatives for new/improved services. Information about completed studies, and studies in progress, is at Annex A.
5.The BSPU has commissioned a computerised database setting out all regulatory activities undertaken by the Government with a record of date introduced and last revised, original objective etc. BSPU is working systematically through the record to identify areas for potential future study, in addition to relying on suggestions from the business community.
6.Regulation per se is not wrong. The Government has a duty to provide an appropriate regulatory regime in areas such as public safety, health, fair and orderly markets etc. The key is to ensure that we do not create unnecessary red tape in achieving legitimate policy objectives, and to ensure that regulators are concious of the full cost implications of their practices. The most important factor in ensuring we strike the right balance between costs and benefits, and in making Hong Kong genuinely business friendly, is securing the right mindset among senior officials. As a first step in this process, BSPU organised a Helping Business Symposium in November as part of the Chief Secretary's regular Heads of Department meeting. The Symposium will be followed up by seminars for senior and middle directorate officers throughout the Administration.
7.The Services Promotion Strategy Group (SPSG), chaired by the Financial Secretary, steers the Services Promotion Programme. SPSG takes as its starting point the Final Report of the Government Task Force on Services Promotion, published in March together with the Budget. The policy directions in the Report have now been condensed and codified into 125 initiatives. A progress report is at Annex B.
8.In addition, SPSG has endorsed a 10-point Publicity Programme and a 12-point Action Agenda for 1997-98. They are at Annexes C and D respectively, together with an update on progress to date.
FINANCIAL AND STAFFING IMPLICATIONS
9.The operating budget for the Unit itself is $14 million per year. To suit the project-based nature of its work, the Unit also has as its disposal resources for commissioning consultancies and creating short term civil service positions. For 1998-99, these additional resources amount to $23 million.
10.The Unit has given a series of low key briefings to such bodies as the General Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, the Coalition of Service Industries and the Small & Medium Enterprises Committee. These briefings will continue. We will hold a press conference in December and we will brief the Trade and Industry Panel of the Provisional Legislative Council in January. The Unit published a special newsletter, with the title " Hong Kong Business Times " , in October (Annex E) and will produce additional issues in future. The Unit introduced its own Home Page on the Internet in October, and has received communications from within Hong Kong, the Mainland, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and the USA.
Business & Services Promotion Unit,
Financial Secretary's Office
Provisional Legislative Council Brief
Helping Business and Promoting Services
|Annex A||Helping Business Programme|
|Progress of Implementation of Services Promotion Initiatives in the Final Report of the Government Task Force on Services Promotion|
|Annex C||Progress of Implementation of the 1997-98 Publicity Programme for Services Promotion|
|Annex D||Progress of Implementation of 1997-98 Action Agenda for Services Promotion|
|Hong Kong Business Times|
Helping Business Programme
Studies completed and implemented
- Hong Kong Background Information
ISD has produced the Hong Kong Background Information, which is a handy reference book containing key facts about Hong Kong, for ease of use particularly overseas by senior Government officials and leading businessmen. It is available in both soft and hard copies.
- Organisation charts on the Interne
The organisation charts of all Bureaux and departments, including telephone numbers of senior officers, are being made available on the Internet. HAB has issued guidelines to bureaux and departments on the preparation of material to be included.
- Stocktaking of public forms
BSPU has identified 2,700 public forms which as at 1.4.97 were being used by the public to submit applications or information to Government departments. The stocktaking serves as a useful indicator of the overall position, and annual updates will help monitor trends.
- Excavation Permit
In October this year, BSPU, on behalf of the Highways Department, produced a user-friendly guide to help the industry understand the application procedures.
Studies completed, implementation in progress
- Streamlining of lease modification and land exchange procedures
The consultancy study was completed in September 1996. PELB and LD have implemented 26 out of the 31 recommendations. LD has reduced the average application processing time for land exchanges and lease modifications by over 25%.
- Payment and collection of government money
The Treasury completed the study in October 1996 and has implemented 11 out of the 15 recommendations. The Government is now settling 90% of all invoices within 30 days of receipt. The processing time for payment of government money has been shortened to 9 days. Departments accepting electronic payment have been extended to eight and over 2000 suppliers now accept direct credit for settling payment.
- A " one stop " Business Licence Information Centre (BLIC)
MSA completed the study in November 1996. Industry Department opened the BLIC in September this year to provide businessmen with all information they need on business licensing requirements. The service will be put on the Internet in early 1998.
- Departmental business study on Trade Department
The consultancy study was completed in October 1996. TIB and TD have implemented 14 out of the 24 recommendations. TD has made particularly good progress in strengthening interface with the public and streamlining licence processing operations. The processing time for 10 services has also been shortened. For example, applications for textiles export licence for samples and personal effects are dealt with within 20 minutes.
- Departmental business study on Marine Departmen
The consultancy study was completed in November 1996. ESB and MD have implemented 22 out of the 42 recommendations. These cover mainly measures to strengthen interface with shipping agents and streamline application procedures. For example, the Department now provides continuous window services with no closure at lunchtime, and shipping agents can now submit port formalities documentation by fax and relicensing for all classes of vessels by post.
- Boundary crossing permits for private cars
BSPU completed the study in June 1997. The application procedure has been simplified and the documentary support has been reduced.
- Review of hotel / guesthouse licensing
The consultancy study, completed in September 1997, has confirmed the continuing validity of the principal reasons for licensing hotels and guesthouses and made a total of 33 recommendations for improving the licensing regime. The recommendations cover the mode of operation of the Licensing Authority, safety standards, inspection and licensing as well as policing and prosecution. HAB and HAD are drawing up an action plan for implementation.
- Application for consent to sales of units in uncompleted developments
The consultancy study, completed in October 1997, has confirmed that the consent scheme is necessary to give protection to home buyers. PELB and LD plan to implement all the recommendations by March 1999. On full implementation, the processing time for consent to sales of units in uncompleted developments will be reduced by 2 - 3 months.
- Public forms on Internet
MSA completed the study in August 1996. Phase I of the programme covering 286 public forms from 33 departments was launched in April this year. Phase II, which will include a further 200 forms, is scheduled for completion by end November. We are now preparing for Phase III.
Studies in progress or under preparation
- Promotion of autopay and other electronic means of payment
The objective of the study is to boost settlement of government payment by autopay and other electronic means.
- List of licensed hotels / guesthouses on Internet
The objective of the project is to encourage hotels and guesthouses to come under the licensing regime and, at the same time, to facilitate tourists to identify licensed hotel / guesthouse establishments in Hong Kong.
- Departmental business study on Industry Department
The objective of the study is to cultivate a pro-business culture and pro-business practices in the Industry Department and to ensure that the Department provides high-standard and cost-effective services to the business community.
- Departmental business study on Planning Department
The objective of the study is to rationalise the existing activities in the Planning Department vis- " -vis the objectives of the new Town Planning Bill and to cultivate a pro-business culture and pro-business practices in the Department.
- Entertainment licensing (phase I)
Phase I covers amusement game centres, public dance halls, dancing schools and mah-jong / Tin Kau establishments. The objective of the study is to rationalise the existing licensing arrangements vis- " -vis the objectives of the regulations and to ensure that the legislation and regulatory control activities are kept to the necessary minimum.
- Prescribed windows for toilet and bathroom
The objective of the study is to rationalise the approach to the control of lighting and ventilation for buildings by striking a balance between the attainment of reasonable and adequate health standards and the flexibility in building design and optimization of the use of the latest building technology.
- Restaurant licensing
The objective of the study is to expedite the processing of licensing approval and to rationalise the existing licensing system for general restaurants vis- " -vis the objectives of the regulations.
- Supermarket licensing
This study will cover the core licences and permits pertaining to the sale of food and drink in supermarkets and convenience stores and the study will explore opportunities to expedite the processing of licence applications.
- Licensing of local vessels
The objective of the study is to rationalise the existing licensing system for local vessels vis- a-vis the objectives of the regulations made under the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance and to expedite the process to license local vessels.
- Management of Public Cargo Working Areas
The objective of the study is to streamline the existing control mechanism and enforcement procedures for the management of PCWAs.
- Building a Cost of Compliance Assessment Framework
The objective of the study is to establish a general CCA framework for application across the Government to facilitate policy bureaux and departments to take a balanced view of the potential cost and benefit to the business sector, the Government and the community as a whole, before introducing any regulation system.
- Quality residential care home for the elderly
BSPU is assisting the HWB and SWD to tender out some premises for use as a quality residential care home for the elderly. This is a pilot scheme. The overall objective of the project is to enhance private sector participation in the provision of residential care home for the elderly.
- Utilities connection / run-ins for buildings
The objective of the scheme is to speed up building developments. Developers are encouraged to employ approved contractors to connect water supply, sewerage and build run-ins, instead of asking Government departments to do the work. The scheme would help developers obtain occupation permits for their projects up to three months earlier than under present arrangements.
- Car Parks at Government Buildings
Following the contracting-out of the management of the car parks at CGO, GPA is actively exploring the possibility of contracting out the management of the Murray Building and other government carparks.
- Operation at patent, design and trade marks registry of Intellectual Property Department
The objective of the study is to identify existing activities in IPD appropriate for transfer to the private sector.