The economy first, then politics

James Tien

With the election behind us, the Liberal Party's goal is, first, to get the economy back on track. It has been recovering slowly, but it is important to keep up the impetus, and to build on the modest success already achieved in production and employment.

It is still too early for ordinary people to feel the improvement personally - it has yet to be translated into their job prospects or their pay packets.

Our strategy remains, as always, to fight for the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises, simply because by boosting business, everyone benefits. When we met the chief executive after the election, my colleagues and I stressed several points we would like to see as government priorities during the new term.

In the four busy years ahead, we will push constantly to make Hong Kong the region's most go-ahead city, renowned for its thriving financial markets, its value-added service economy, thriving tourism sector and the speed with which it embraces and adapts the latest innovations of modern technology.

Economic recovery has to be at the top of the agenda. We are pledged to do everything we can to help the administration in devising methods to create more jobs, and help the middle class - the backbone of our economy - out of the difficulties it has shouldered over years of recession.

We urgently need more investment to get us back on track. To this end, we should extend the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme to attract more mainland enterprises to Hong Kong. It is one of the most effective ways of bringing in more jobs and giving a much-needed boost to the property market.

It also offers an unrivalled opportunity to entrepreneurs from other regions of China, to set up in a city celebrated for its know-how in commerce and industry, in addition to a legal system which safeguards both company and client. We must develop the tourism sector in the New Territories, spreading benefits and increasing facilities for visitors.

But there are other issues that are crucial if Hong Kong is to flourish. To that end, we have urged the government to look again at how the system is currently structured. In my view, there is too much separation between legislature and executive, each of which operates in virtual isolation from the other. This does not make sense when, whatever political opinions individual members may hold, we are all working in the interests of our city.

Closer links between the two would bring better understanding, and that, I am convinced, would oil the wheels of government. If, for example, principal officers were to attend Legco panel meetings more often, they could explain their policies to legislators, answer questions and reply to members' concerns. Each would get an insight into the others' thinking, and both would gain from the experience.

There is too much of a 'them and us' attitude in the various arms of the administration, and that is not conducive to progress. The Liberal Party aims to do anything it can to foster better relations not just between our own political parties but, most importantly, between mainland officials and the legislators our people have chosen to represent them. The more we talk, share ideas, and are prepared to listen to the opposing point of view, the better the prospects for progress.

In our talks with Mr Tung, we pressed for the direct election of the chief executive in 2012, and suggested the election committee be doubled to 1,600 members for the chief executive's election in 2007.

Similarly, the voter base should be increased to more than 300,000. We also suggested (subject to the agreement of Legco) increasing the legislature by 10 more seats, five each for geographical and functional constituencies.

James Tien Pei-chun is chairman of the Liberal Party