Pension consultancy Watson Wyatt Hong Kong yesterday urged the Government not to use the economic downturn as a reason to delay further the long-awaited Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme. The call follows speculation that the Government might delay the introduction as a result of present economic difficulties. There has been concern that the MPF scheme could send a lot of companies out of business, because it requires employers and employees each to contribute 5 per cent of the employee's salary and will add to the cost of doing business. The Government originally planned to start the scheme on January 1, 2000. It is now looking at July 1, 2000 as the starting date, due to the delay in appointments of key staff to the MPF Authority. Watson Wyatt Hong Kong director Steve Butler said yesterday the Government should not delay the scheme after mid-2000. 'Hong Kong's economy has undoubtedly entered difficult times. However, there is no reason at present to assume these same problems will still be around in the middle of the year 2000,' he said. He admitted the MPF could lead to employees having less money to take home, but it would allow them to have more savings. The Government should name a starting date to help MPF service-providers plan for the scheme, he said.