Influential chambers of commerce and business associations have urged the government to help struggling companies as economic indicators point to a dismal year for doing business. Many in the business community are unhappy over the near absence of any mention of small and medium-sized enterprises in February's budget speech and warned of dire consequences. Such firms account for about 98 per cent of companies, employing the bulk of the workforce. 'There is a strong need for further measures to revive the Hong Kong economy,' Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce chief economist David O'Rear said. 'Hong Kong is too small an economy to be very well affected by spending' on infrastructure and public works projects. The chamber, which usually sides with the government, was particularly vocal in its dismay over the budget. The administration should return taxes paid on provisional profits and waive charges such as the business registration fee for one or two years to help companies conserve cash, Mr O'Rear said. The government did extend 2007/08 tax rebates of 75 per cent - capped at HK$25,000 - to companies and waived business registration fees for 2008/09. Public pressure for more handouts has been mounting, but Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has largely confined consultations on a supplementary mid-year budget to political parties. Last week, he pledged to unionists fresh concessions that would be 'less controversial, instantly effective and focused'. KPMG tax partner Jennifer Wong How-yee said the priority for the supplementary mid-year budget lay mainly with political parties and the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, given the need for Mr Tsang to secure votes in the legislature for any new measures. Economic data so far this year is not encouraging. As of March, the jobless rate worsened to 5.2 per cent, exports shrank more than one-fifth and retail sales have deteriorated.