The Trade Development Council (TDC) will put more resources into promoting trade while maintaining a balanced budget this financial year.
The TDC was able to achieve a balanced budget with tighter cost controls in 2001-2002 despite a shortfall in trade and a reduced government subsidy.
Executive director Michael Sze Cho-cheung said the TDC's salary scale was de-linked from the civil service in 1997, while the number of senior staff had been reduced.
'Our salary scale is performance-related and our staff are not subject to an annual increment as civil servants are,' Mr Sze said yesterday. 'Since I started work here in 1996, the number of senior staff - deputy executive directors - has dropped from 16 to seven.'
Mr Sze said the TDC would control administrative costs and staff numbers while providing more services. The TDC had a guideline of keeping administrative costs under 10 per cent of total expenditure, while expenditure on promoting trade should be more than 50 per cent. The TDC has about 850 staff.
In the present financial year, the TDC estimates it will have revenue of HK$1.47 billion, of which HK$377 million will come from a government subsidy.
Revenue from its business unit will contribute HK$792.68 million. Income from operational activities will provide HK$146.64 million and interest HK$155.16 million.
It would also spend HK$912 million on trade promotion and services and HK$550 million on salaries and administration.
The TDC also released a three-year plan showing it would focus on three aspects in the medium term: developing the mainland as a Hong Kong domestic market; reinforcing Hong Kong as a global trade platform; and enhancing the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized enterprises by providing them with information and training.
The TDC is planning to rent out seven work stations in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to business starters at a subsidised price of about HK$3,000 per month.
Mr Sze hopes this trial programme will provide an easy environment for potential entrepreneurs to start their own business.
'It is a match-up programme, as the Government provides a lot of training for people to start a business. We encourage people to do trade. It's a good time for starting a business,' he said.
Mr Sze said about 100 parties had already shown interest in the programme, and it might consider expanding it if it worked well.
At the same time, Mr Sze said there were signs of an economic recovery, citing as an example the better atmosphere and increase in exhibitors and buyers at the Jewellery Exhibition this year. The jewellery industry was usually slow to react to an economic upturn, he said.
'If we use it [the exhibition] as an indicator, there is such a trend [of recovery],' he said. 'The only problem is whether it will be sustainable.'