British Chamber of Commerce says green initiatives are needed in the budget The government should consider including an environmental blueprint containing fiscal and educational initiatives to reduce pollution when preparing the budget, the British Chamber of Commerce has suggested. It also says it should expand the tax base, urging Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen to hold a consultation on a goods and services tax as soon as possible. In its annual budget submission, the chamber says the government should pursue a holistic approach to environmental policy, drawing on international best practice. 'This is vital, not only in terms of Hong Kong maintaining its ability to attract and retain overseas business talent, but also in respect of the long-term health implications for its resident population,' it says. The chamber says the government should consider funding several environment-related studies, including urgent modification of polluting Hong Kong and mainland power plants, the extent to which mainland pollution comes from Hong Kong-owned factories and the greater use of cleaner fuels and technologies. It also supports the government's adoption of the 'polluter pays' principle to meet growing pollution challenges. The chamber says a goods and services tax would provide a stable revenue source less prone to temporary economic disturbances. '[The government] should take advantage of the 'window of opportunity' provided by Hong Kong's currently improving economy to implement the tax at a time when the general public is likely to be at its most receptive to the idea,' its submission says. But the chamber believes the city still faces underlying problems, such as the imbalance between government revenue and expenditure, rising property prices, interest rate fluctuations and the impact of higher oil prices on global trade. The submission says the tax system is outdated, and a revamp of both legislation and administration is necessary to bring it in line with other developed economies. The chamber also urges the government to continue developing business initiatives with the mainland to strengthen Hong Kong's position as a hub for inward and outward investment. The government needs to reassess infrastructure needs and encourage retirement planning, due to an ageing population. Anticipating a bird flu outbreak, the chamber says the government must take appropriate steps to ensure the loan guarantee scheme, adopted to help business sectors hardest hit during the Sars outbreak, could be quickly revived and extended. Meanwhile, legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming has written to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen suggesting the executive committee of the Strategic Development Commission hold discussions on the land policy, which had a significant impact on Hong Kong's long-term development.