The board of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing meets tomorrow to vote on whether to go ahead with the abolition of the minimum brokerage commission. Having delayed the move for a year from last April 1, the government (which appoints a majority of the HKEx board) appears likely to stick to its guns this time and force through the measure, amid howls of protest from the broking industry. The minimum commission remains an anachronism in a city that is fond of trumpeting its aspirations to be a top-tier international financial centre. Fixed commissions are a rarity in today's global finance industry. The US deregulated brokerage rates in the 1970s. Even the mainland liberalised its rates last year. Last year's stay of execution was a political decision, designed to head off an embarrassing street protest during the chief executive's re-election campaign. It testified to the power of a domestic brokerage industry that, curiously, continues to punch above its weight in government circles. In truth, brokers have little cause for complaint. They were compensated handsomely three years ago with shares in HKEx, whose creation took control of the stock exchange out of their hands. By the government's own admission, the retention of the minimum commission damages the competitiveness of Hong Kong's securities industry and therefore the economy. It is true that many brokerage employees will lose their jobs if fixed rates go, although the figure of 10,000 cited by one industry body is surely overstated. They deserve our sympathy in the tough labour market. The question, though, is whether a bloated and feather-bedded industry should be able to avoid the pain of economic adjustment at the expense of the wellbeing of the wider community. The answer must be no. In announcing a 10 per cent pay cut for his Cabinet last week, Tung Chee-hwa signalled his intention that the economic pain be borne by all - a significant gesture for a government that has made a habit out of cosseting special interests. Tomorrow's vote presents an early opportunity for it to follow through on that commitment.