Updated at 6.37pm: A member of the shareholder advisory group opposed to the Government's plan to delay the abolishment of the minimum brokerage commission said the move would endanger the SAR's competitiveness. Outspoken independent financial commentator David Webb, editor of Webb-site.com and member of the Securities and Futures Commission's shareholder advisory group, said the maintenance of the minimum brokerage commission was proof that Hong Kong is not yet a free economy. ''The Government has caved in to pressure from a small but vocal minority to use power to maintain anti-competitive price-fixing practices in Hong Kong's brokerage industry,'' Mr Webb said. ''In doing so, the Government demonstrates that, despite all the claims [to it being] a free market, Hong Kong's economy is still a system of cartels where the Government puts vested interests ahead of economic competitiveness.'' ''You can't have a world-class market if it is dominated by vested interests.'' After intensive lobbying from brokers, the Government decided yesterday to delay the abolishment of the 0.25 minimum brokerage commission for 12 months, so the cartel will only be scrapped on April 1 next year. Two years ago, the Government planned to remove the minimum brokerage commission by April 1 this year in a bid to lower transaction cost and to increase the competitiveness of the local market. Secretary for financial services Stephen Ip Shu-kwan said on Thursday that a delay of a year was the best option in light of the present gloomy economic situation and the high unemployment rate. Despite the delay, the Government and all parties concerned still agree that liberalisation of the minimum commission would be the right way forward, Mr Ip said. Mr Ip rejected a proposal from some brokers to delay the move for three years, saying that one-year delay is enough. Brokers have warned that the territory's 500 firms may need to lay off around 7,500 staff to cut costs once the minimum brokerage commission is scrapped, while a price war may force the 200 smallest brokers out of business. But Mr Webb said many of the small brokers should have sufficient money to cope with the abolishment of the cartel. ''Hong Kong's small brokerage firms, whose owners were paid off handsomely when Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing was created, are living in the past,'' Mr Webb said.