BY now the Governor and his policy secretaries will have gone some way towards completing a listening process with different political parties and Legco members about their respective 'wish lists'. In some ways, the administration is fortunate that the unemployment rate has crept up over the past few months. This has all but dominated political and media attention, resulting in repeated calls for the cancellation of the general scheme for importation of labour where the ceiling is 25,000 guest workers. Nobody wants to recognise the fact that the scheme has, for practical purposes, been abandoned. Guest workers whose contracts have expired are not replaced by any new guest workers even where there is a clear and demonstrable shortage of workers in certain sectors. Secondly, their numbers have been reduced from about 25,000 a year ago to about 15,000 today. Despite these 10,000 jobs, the unemployment figures have increased over the same period. Despite Hong Kong employing about 3.05 million, an all-time high, the unemployment rate has increased. But why? Probably due to an economic downturn in the private sector and more than anticipated entrants joining the workforce. It is against this background that I say the administration is fortunate. Why? Because the 'venom' has been directed at the 15,000 or so guest workers and the labour-import scheme and because the administration saw a chance to divert attention instead of being absolutely forthright about the plain truth that we have been exceedingly fortunate in enjoying the continued economic success that we have had. This diversion has sidelined the real issues: are we headed for an economic downturn? Is there anything we can do about it? The downturn has been particularly felt in the retail, restaurant and property sectors. In reality, a combination of events has contributed to the deterioration of the feel-good factor. We should therefore have a package that will not just stimulate the economy but also restore, if at all possible, the feel-good factor. In an attempt to achieve the objectives I have referred to, some political parties have put forward their ideas. The Liberal Party's package was put to the Governor on September 29. On the tax side, the Liberal Party suggested a reduction of 1.5 per cent from the current profits tax of 16.5 per cent and 15 per cent personal tax plus a housing allowance. Subsequently, the Democratic Party has proposed a reduction of half a per cent of the profits tax and some major revision of the personal tax allowance. During last Sunday's City Forum programme there was a fair amount of criticism of the lack of any governmental support for the development of high technology industries, and research and development. Comments included whether it was too late to embark on this course. I do not believe it. Maybe these comments followed another measure put forward by the Liberal Party to change the Industrial Technology Development Council into an executive authority with additional funding to propel Hong Kong in that direction. The Liberal Party also repeated its suggestion of setting up a China-Hong Kong Economic Co-operation Committee. The logic and importance is self-evident. If Hong Kong is to play its role vis-a-vis China with maximum effect this committee is essential. THE Liberal Party also asked that the role of the Trade Development Council be expanded to include the promotion of inward investment, or investments in Hong Kong, and to promote professional and other services that Hong Kong can provide. In as much as Hong Kong's economy is now service-driven the TDC's success can be drawn on to promote these two very important areas. The Liberal Party reiterated its long-held views on freezing rates, government fees and charges. As regards other measures to stimulate the economy and improve the feel-good factor, we proposed accelerating public sector works including housing and infrastructure, relaxation of the 70 per cent mortgage ceiling, increasing plot ratios for hotel development and cancelling the airport tax. We do not profess to have provided all the answers but we believe these measures will help. We hope that the administration will not retort by asking whether we want a planned economy.