The Professional Commons

The Professional Commons (Traditional Chinese: 公共專業聯盟)- a policy think tank by professionals. It is an independent, membership-based, non-profit organisation and think tank established in Hong Kong in June 2007. It is open to all professionals who share the same values.

It adopts a network-based governance model and operate under the principles of openness and equality. Members can freely initiate and participate in task groups in pursuit of our mission. Organisational matters are handled by three committees elected from among the members: the Strategy Committee, Management Committee and Communications Committee. [ [http://www.procommons.org.hk/eng/aboutus.htm The Professional Commons ] ]

Origin

During the election for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong in March 2007, over 100 Election Committee members from various professional sectors joined hands to advocate a faster pace for democracy. Many of these EC members, together with like-minded professionals, decided afterwards to build on this foundation. This decision reflects the vision of many professionals to build an agent for change and an agent for good governance.

Mission

The Professional Commons is committed to improving the quality of public governance and empowering the community in the policy-making process. The Professional Commons shall accomplish this by harnessing the soft power of responsible professionalism.

The Mission Statement for the Professional Commons are as follows:

*To achieve universal suffrage by 2012;
*To monitor Government through professional analysis;
*To express professional views in the pursuit of public interest; and
*To uphold core values of professional independence, freedom and integrity.

The Professional Commons shall work to promote matters of significant public interest rather than those of sectoral or trade interests.

Key Members

Chairman: Albert Lai

Vice-Chairman Charles Mok and Kenneth Leung

Treasurer: Frankie Yan

Secretary: Dennis Kwok

Members of the Strategic Committee: Tanya Chan, Fung Ho Lup, S C Leung, Alan Lung and Stanley Ng.

Issue Task Groups

Members may at any time, subject to the approval of the Strategy Committee, set up an issue task group provided at least 4 members from at least 3 professional sectors have expressed interest to play an active role. All task groups are open to all members. A convenor and a co-convenor, who shall serve as the link with the Strategy Committee, shall be elected from among the members of the relevant task groups.

Each ITAG shall focus on specific current issues or public policy initiatives that satisfy the following selection criteria :

Whether the current issue or policy initiative may have significant impact on core values of professional freedom, independence and integrity;

Whether the current issue or policy initiative is a matter of significant public interest, which is likely to benefit from a concerted effort of multi-sectoral professional inputs;

Whether there exists sufficient interest and adequate expertise among members in respect of the issues concerned.

Each ITAG shall develop an action plan to conduct relevant research, organise events, develop tools and formulate policy position in respect of the specific policy areas or public concerns.

List of Issue Task Groups

ITAG 1: 2012 Universal Suffrage

ITAG 2: Media and Press Freedom

ITAG 3: Academic, Intellectual and Professional Freedoms

ITAG 4: Development and Community Participation

ITAG 5: SME & Economic Diversity

Recent Research

West Kowloon For the People

The Professional Commons has published a research report on the development of West Kowloon Cultural District, entitled [http://www.procommons.org.hk/documents/WKCD_Report--final_20071211-2.pdf A West Kowloon For the People] in December 2007. The major recommendations of the report are as follows:

*Private residential development would be reduced by one-third and communal facilities, for example, fire service complex, be removed. By so doing, 14 000 square meters of open space can be released. A “creativity jam” with an area of 5 000 square meters can also be provided. The proposal may bring in an additional fund of HK$1.5 billion for promoting cultural development on district level.

* West Kowloon should be developed into a “low carbon demonstrative zone”. Specific measures include installing moving walkways as major transport means within the area and to encourage visitors to stroll around, setting up cycling networks connecting new and established areas, designating pedestrian zones during daytime, adopting district cooling systems and enforcing higher energy efficiency standards in buildings, etc.

* Taking into consideration the optimum use of resources, nurturing of talents and building a people’s foundation for development, the current phasing development of the West Kowloon project should be further divided, with small scale or even temporary performance areas, for example, black box theatres and open air performance areas, etc., coming into being by the end of 2012 to accommodate street performers as well as small-scale “people’s arts fairs”, in addition to landscape parks to be built earlier for public enjoyment. By so doing, members of the public may enjoy at least part of the West Kowloon Cultural District two years ahead of schedule. Land neighbouring the arts fairs should be reserved for future expansion. If necessary, land reserved for phase II expansion may also be used for the provision of temporary cultural performance facilities, e.g. temporary theatres for Cantonese Opera, circus marquees, etc. As regards the construction work of large-scale arts facilities, it should generally follow the original schedule.

* The open space inside the cultural district should be made green to the largest extent to facilitate the setting up of a “West Kowloon Park”. The whole park belt should include a central park of considerable size, a harbour-front promenade, cycling paths, and different areas inside the belt should be connected by a network of moving walkways and walking trails. With landscaped areas, installation art and street performances, the whole park belt would be teemed with vivacious activities, creating an atmosphere of natural scenery permeated by and blended with arts.

*The setting up “community cultural centres” on district level to provide cultural development venues on the middle level. In terms of the development of cultural hardware, the Government should first invest in areas comparatively lacking cultural and arts facilities such as the northwest New Territories and Tseung Kwan O, where further cultural centres and performance venues should be built, and idle premises be revitalized for cultural and arts purposes. The HK$1.5 billion additional revenue from land sale could be used for the setting up of a “district cultural development fund” to promote long-term programmes of stationing performing troupes or artists in venues for performing arts or at schools, or to promote sustainable cultural activities in remote areas such as Tin Shui Wai.

* The composition of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority should follow the “stakeholder-led” principle whereby membership of the Authority should be diversified.I It should comprise not only appointees of the Government but also those who are chosen by concern groups so as to strike a prudent balance among all stakeholders, be they government officials, professionals, individuals in the cultural sectors, members of the public and representatives from non-government organizations.

Better Use of Fiscal Surplus

In view of the high budgetary surplus of the Hong Kong SAR Government, it has also conducted a research concerning on how the budget surplus could be used inder the principles of forward-looking, faireness, efficiency, inflation neutral and flexibility, the Report entitled [http://www.procommons.org.hk/documents/20080204_report_eng_final.pdf Fairness, Forward looking and Development Research Report on the Better Use of Fiscal Surplus] , was published in January 2008.

The Report proposed using HK$47.2 billion to provide:

*A HK$5,000 immediate special relief to the "needy", that is , those who are currently receiving the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, Old Age Allowance, Disability Allowance, and those who are earning less than HK$8,000 a month,
*A 25% direct across-the-board public transport rebate,
* The Government should set up a personal account for every adult citizen of Hong Kong, entitled ‘Citizen’s Account”, which could serve a dual purpose of personal development, as well as serving the needs for retirement.

The key components of the Account are as follows:

*The Government should make a “seed payment” of HK$4,000 to the “Citizen’s Account” of every member of the adult population in Hong Kong, that is, those who hold Hong Kong Permanent Resident Identity Cards;

*There are two components in the Account, serving two different purposes: “Personal Development Purposes” and “Retirement Purposes”, each constitutes HK$2,000;

*The “Personal Development Purpose”: MPF account holders could withdraw the money through the MPFA immediately to serve personal needs, the Mandatory Provident Fund Authority shall be responsible to distribute the amount concerned, while those without MPF Account could apply through the Government;

*As for the arrangements for the “Retirement Purposes”: The MPFA will contact the existing MPF account holders to seek their instructions on whether they should:

*Deposit the amount concerned into their existing MPF Account as voluntary contributions; or

*Request the Mandatory Provident Fund Authority to transfer the amount concerned to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for their investments and management;

*For those who do not have an MPF Account, their entitlement in the “Citizen’s Account” shall be pooled together for investments and managed under the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, until the account holder transfer their money to set up their own MPF Account, or the money will be available for withdrawal once the account holders reach 65;

*Old Age CSSA and Old Age Allowance recipients will be allowed to withdraw the whole HK$4,000 in the Account immediately;

*The Government shall also send notification concerning the balance to the account holders on a regular basis.

*The establishment of a HK$8 billion "Climate Challenge Fund" to finance local and cross-boundary measures for the tackling on global climate change.The measures include:
*A HK$500 million “Low-Carbon Professional Aid Scheme”;
*A HK$500 million “Green Homes Subsidy Scheme”;
*A HK$2 billion “Green Community Subsidy Scheme”; and
*A HK$5 billion “Pearl River Delta Climate Change Response Fund”.

Recent Activities

The Professional Commons organized the first and only open and televised forum for the candidates of the Hong Kong deputies National People's Congress on 22 January 2008.

It also organized, together with the Office of Hon. Anson Chan, a Pre-Budget Forum for the discussion of the 2008/09 budget on 18 February 2008.

External links

* [http://www.procommons.org.hk Official Website]

References


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