THE Trade Development Council (TDC) and the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) are to help promote service productivity, it was announced in the Budget last week. For some time, HKPC has been encouraging the use of information technology (IT) in the service industry and helping companies with environmental management and ISO 9000 certification. HKPC and the TDC will, therefore, simply be expanding their present roles to take into account the shift in the Hong Kong environment. In the case of the HKPC, this began in 1994 when it changed its role because of the rapid restructuring of the economy. 'The HKPC felt there was a need to develop a response in relation to the restructuring,' the council's executive director, Chan Siu-kam, said. 'We reached the conclusion that we should continue to support the manufacturing industry but move upmarket and, therefore, place more emphasis on research and development and also expand our support to include the service sector.' Because the service sector is so broad, HKPC chose to support the import-export trade and the wholesale and retail business. Involving 24 per cent of Hong Kong's GDP and 20 per cent of the workforce, it was the largest sector. In addition, it is difficult to differentiate between manufacturing and trading because of their growing interdependence. 'Many people draw a sharp distinction between manufacturing and services, based on a misunderstanding of Hong Kong's economy,' Mr Chan said. 'We prefer to take a system approach by looking at the value-added chain. 'We developed a rapid response system for the sewing line of the garment industry. 'But we found that this was no good without a similar response for pre-and post-sewing operations such as sourcing and delivery [services]. 'We take a total approach to improve productivity.' Mr Chan said HKPC had already informed 18 local trade associations about its plans to promote services. He was sure the council could succeed with positive support from the Government and the trading and service sector. The government support he expects will involve a watch on international developments, regular studies on the service industry to find out what help it needs and a detailed system of statistics for the industry.