Raising levies to cut the deficit would hit economic recovery, say political leaders More than 3,000 frozen fees and charges could rise to help tackle the budget deficit, Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said. Dismayed political parties said any rise to fees or charges, especially those relating to business, would hit Hong Kong's recovery. In a series of interviews with local television stations yesterday, Mr Tang said he had told policy bureaus and departments to review government fees and charges. 'Fees which would not affect livelihood and the business environment should be adjusted under the cost recovery and user-pays principles,' Mr Tang said. More than 3,000 fees and charges, including business registration, water charges, and social service fees, have been frozen due to the economic downturn. The freeze, due to be lifted earlier this year, was extended until this month as part of the $11.8 billion rescue package the government launched after the Sars outbreak in April. But Mr Tang said although increases were being considered, they would not be across the board. 'The level of increase would not be done as a single step, and we would not adjust them to cover the freeze in the past five years. The most important is to recover the cost,' he said, adding a decision was expected soon. 'I believe every citizen should do a part ... Solving the budget deficit is not only the government's responsibility,' he said. Mr Tang also said he expected the deflation Hong Kong had been experiencing to end. But while people should be prepared for the possible introduction of a sales tax, it would not be automatically linked to the return of inflation. Politicians expressed anger at the fees proposal. Yeung Sum, chairman of the Democrats, said the government should not try to find short-term solutions. 'When the economy is improving and the treasury is collecting more, the impact of the deficit will reduce,' he said. James Tien Pei-chun, leader of the Liberal Party, said none of the government fees and charges should be raised. 'Under today's economic conditions, it is not appropriate to make any adjustments,' he said. Executive Councillor Tsang Yok-sing, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, said while he understood the government's difficulties, any increases would affect the public. He said no fees should be raised before the March budget. But Eric Li Ka-cheung, representing the accounting sector, said: 'If we never raise the fees and charges, we will never be able to solve the deficit.'