PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2003, 12:00am

While we celebrate the lifting of the World Health Organisation's advisory against travel to Hong Kong, we must make good our deficiencies before spending big dollars on image-rebuilding.

The Sars outbreak revealed our community's intrinsic weakness - a lack of preparedness for emergencies. Multinationals companies have been looking at how we performed and, truthfully, Singapore has done so much better in terms of decisiveness and effectiveness. That is because officials there were prepared.

Hong Kong is familiar with the management of risks involving financial and information technology services, but not in risks which are non-financial in nature. Disease is one such risk. Other risks for which strategies must be devised include the threat of terrorism, natural disasters, environmental accidents and computer virus attacks.

The government needs to take a holistic approach towards risk and disaster management. It must pass the necessary laws and set aside an appropriate budget to meet expected losses.

The sale of live poultry may have to be phased out. Regulations governing building infrastructure such as sewerage, electrical wiring and security must be made more stringent. There is also a dire need to improve inter-departmental co-ordination and purchasing procedures. In terms of public relations, we have seen the harmful effects of announcing poorly researched information, resulting in confusion and allegations of government inaction.

IRENE HO, Yuen Long