Talking Points
Assessing the Impact of Regulations

Last year the Chamber hosted a seminar and workshop on Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA), where we learned a tremendous amount from overseas experts about the benefits of such a process of reviewing laws and policy, and how it works in practice. 

We had planned to organize another seminar this month for senior officials from Britain, United States and Hong Kong to discuss this very important topic further. Unfortunately, we have had to cancel the event due to some speakers not being able to come to Hong Kong. This is not the first time that our planned events and meetings with high-level overseas visitors have had to be cancelled in the past few months. 

Across town, conferences and trade exhibitions that did manage to go ahead suffered from low attendance. It is perhaps understandable that businesspeople and tourists are reluctant to visit Hong Kong, due to news of violent protests being splashed across headlines around the world. Whatever justification extreme protesters cite for their actions, we cannot and should not condone their violent actions. 

However, now that the Government has extended an olive branch by agreeing to formally withdraw the extradition bill, which was the root of the protests, we really need to focus our efforts on getting Hong Kong back on track and restoring confidence. As part of this we need to examine and learn from society's grievances that rose to the surface during the protests. 

In our upcoming Policy Address submission to the Government we have stressed again the need for a proper, evidence-based RIA process to be carried out before any new policy or measure is introduced. 

Having such a framework is important for a number of reasons. It is widely accepted by developed economies that RIA improves the quality of regulatory decision-making. It involves a systematic assessment of the costs and benefits of any new regulations, to ensure that they are necessary and appropriate.

The process can also be applied to old laws as part of a regular review process, which is increasingly important in today's rapidly changing world. If Hong Kong is to seriously position ourselves as a hub for technology and innovation, we must not be hamstrung by out-of-date regulations. 

Here at HKGCC, we have naturally focused on the benefits to the business community and the Hong Kong economy of introducing RIA. However, the recent protests have also served to underline some of the other advantages.

Transparency and proper public consultation are key aspects of a robust and rigorous RIA process. This helps the public to understand the reasons behind new regulations and initiatives, gives them the opportunity to share their thoughts, and ultimately gives them more confidence in the lawmaking process.

The Government has admitted that it did a bad job in this regard over the extradition bill. The speed at which it attempted to pass this controversial bill was one of the key factors that caused alarm among citizens.

Since then, the Government has stressed many times that it will collect feedback from the public and also study all issues affecting Hong Kong. This, we feel, is a good step in the right direction, and we firmly believe that combined with a full RIA process, the Government will be in a far better-informed position to formulate policies that will benefit the entire Hong Kong community.