CityU hosts forum to promote discussion on GST

Regina Lau

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City University of Hong Kong (CityU) hosted a public forum entitled “Goods and Services Tax (GST): Visions or Missions Impossible?” to promote discussion on the issue of introducing GST in Hong Kong.

The forum, held on 18 November by CityU’s Governance in Asia Research Centre (GARC), demonstrated the University’s increasingly pro-active role in addressing public policy and governance issues. Over 90 academics, students interested in the GST issue and representatives from private and public sectors attended the forum.

“By bringing together a mix of speakers from diverse backgrounds in law, economics, policy study and ethics, we hope to promote public debate and

informed public-decision making about the GST proposal,” said Professor Julia Tao Lai Po-wah, GARC Director.

The forum featured two major sessions: one on international experience and perspectives, and the other on the Hong Kong debate over GST. Professor Tao was one of the speakers at the roundtable discussion on the Hong Kong GST debate, approaching the issue from an ethics perspective. “How will the public benefit from GST? Is there a social vision to ground the policy? Does it lead to a caring, just and sustainable society?” she questioned.

Two other CityU academics—Professor (Chair) Stephen Cheung Yan-leung of the Department of Economics and Finance, and Professor Martin Painter, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences—tackled the issue from the economic and social policy perspectives, respectively. Professor Cheung suggested that in view of the aging population in Hong Kong, economic growth is not likely to be sustainable without tax reforms and measures that meet growing public expenditure. Professor Martin Painter commented that pressing economic problems always lay the ground for implementing tax reforms. He wondered if there is an economic crisis in Hong Kong that makes GST inevitable.

Guest speaker Mr Frederick Ma Si-hang, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, put forward the Government’s case and vision for GST.

“The objectives of the proposed tax reforms are to broaden tax base and to maintain our international competitiveness,” he said, “We are looking for a long-term solution to a long-term problem.”

In the session on international experience and perspectives, three renowned academics talked about the experience of introducing GST in South Korea, Singapore and Australia, respectively. They included Professor Kim Yu-chan from the Department of Taxation, Keimyung University in South Korea; Dr Lee Chee-tong from the Singapore Centre for Applied and Policy Economics, National University of Singapore; and Professor Richard Cullen, Visiting Professor of the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong.

The Government of the HKSAR released a consultation paper in mid-July this year for a nine-month consultation on its proposal to introduce GST to broaden Hong Kong’s tax base.

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