Since its first meeting in 1999, the Council of International Advisers has proved to be controversial. Various criticisms have been levelled at the council: it is simply a public relations exercise; its terms of reference are vague; its achievements are indiscernible. In short, it is a waste of time and money. All of these comments may well be incorrect, and yet the truth is that it is almost impossible to make an objective assessment of the body's effectiveness. Members of the Government, naturally, are quick to defend the council, pointing out that its members are august leaders of industry who mingle with myriad government leaders and who make far-reaching strategic commercial decisions. Their advice is simply invaluable, is the Government's line. Others argue that it is clear that only a handful of members of the council take their positions seriously enough to attend meetings regularly. A mere eight out of 19 members turned up to yesterday's meeting. It is easy to blame the events of September 11 for the poor attendance, and yet only six members came along to the previous meeting, in November last year. However, the real root of criticism is simply that there is no evidence of the advisers offering much advice. What are usually made public are macro-economic forecasts and generally upbeat assessments of various government policies. More is needed to convince the public that the council is more than merely a talking shop. The need to hold discussions in private to encourage members to speak freely is obvious. Nevertheless, some transparency is needed. A welcome first move would be to make public a detailed summary of the advice offered and of that which the Government intended to pursue. At least then Hong Kong could see whether it was genuinely tapping in to the vast collective wisdom possessed by these leaders of industry.