Hong Kong cannot suppress economic growth simply because of the widening gap between rich and poor, says Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. In an interview with Cable TV yesterday, Mr Tsang said the wealth gap was expected to widen, but combating it would be difficult. 'As a government, as an international financial centre, we cannot arbitrarily suppress our economic growth because of the existence of this problem,' he said. 'We cannot simply expel the wealthy people because we want to reduce the poor-and-rich gap while trying to reduce it.' Mr Tsang, who is expected on Thursday to declare his candidacy for the chief executive election, also said the government would encourage volunteer groups to establish social enterprises to create jobs for the poor, especially the long-term unemployed. 'When they reach 40 to 50 years old, what can they do? [Yet] they're still a huge social resource,' he said, adding that the government would consider giving priority to social enterprises when it contracted out its services. 'During the tendering [of services contracted out], we have to tell them that besides the fee, other factors that we would consider include that they have the type of labour force we require.' Mr Tsang's comments come amid calls by various sectors for the government to tackle the wealth gap. Many people are still living in poverty despite Hong Kong's recent economic growth. Although many commodities had risen in price, Mr Tsang said he had not heard any grievances or complaints during his district visits last year. 'Over the past year I haven't heard any complaints about inflation, and it's not that it doesn't exist.' The chief executive did acknowledge that there were other problems with some people finding it difficult to get a job and others not having a salary increase in years.