¡@ ªğ¦^ Back

Accountants Takes On Sars

Accountants in Hong Kong are certainly not trained to tackle SARS head on like professional doctors despite our many varied skills. However, we are never slow in playing our part in the community.  Many accountants have acted swiftly ad ingeniously.

As your LegCo representative, I was amongst the first lawmakers to publicly pay tribute to the bravery of our frontline medical workers. In a letter to Hong Kong entitled ¡¥A Wake up Call¡¦ broadcast on RTHK radio 3 on the 6 April 2003, I was the first public figure to draw a parallel between Sars the 911 tragedy and the war in Iraq. I appealed to the Government to step up its efforts to keep both our citizens and the international community accurately informed. I urged our officials to immediately seek expert help from the international community and to treat the then budding epidemic as a matter of great importance for the whole global community. This was against the background that our government officials were still saying that all was under control. The full text is on my website www.ericli.org.

Getting the message out

On 12 April, 2003, the Saturday of the following week, I spoke again on another RTHK radio program and this time, urged the Government to urgently assess the economic consequences of Sars on Hong Kong. I predicted then, that Sars could lead to a sustained period of disruption to consumption, travel and trade. If Hong Kong failed to contain the disease quickly with drastic measures, then the problem could spread and become a serious problem not only for Hong Kong but also the world or, at least, the Asia Pacific region. I appealed to the public to help Hong Kong and themselves by offering generous trade discounts to stimulate consumption after Sars is controlled. I also told the Government to change its mindset of a tight budget and to act boldly in helping to avoid any permanent structural damages inflicted on parts of our economy and thus adding to our swelling unemployment.

Later in the month, I wrote again for the HKSA on the article ¡¥Sars-a race for leadership¡¦ that appeared in this column last month. The article gave a comprehensive account of what I think Hong Kong had done well and what opportunities were missed. In conclusion, I suggested that the race for leadership to manage Sars is not just about Mr. Tung and his handful of top officials but about Hong Kong staying in the race to be a leading city of Asia.

Doing our part

On a more personal note, I also served with other accountants as Honorary Auditors for some of the major Sars charity funds. Many accountants took the initiatives to write to me and offer to help out by joining forces. I am happy to give an account of what I know that they have done.

Our President, Mr. David Sun, took it to heart and wrote twice in his President¡¦s Message on Sars. The HKSA, together with ACCA and CPAA, took a lead in launching the Accountants Care Campaign and directed charity funds raised to where they would be most needed. Our Accountants Ambassadors are already setting their sights on helping the re-launching of Hong Kong by taking part in building management to keep Hong Kong clean in free advisory services teams. Some wanted to help the orphaned children of Sars victims by providing tutorials and personal care.

The accountants from Australia under the auspicious of the CPAA were active on many fronts. They launched a regular electronic bulletin in mid-April to keep members and their international friends informed of the latest Sars updates and positive news for the business and Hong Kong community despite the outbreak. Special seminars were held on ¡¥Change Management¡¦ and the proceeds donated to the Accountants Care Campaign. A survey was conducted on the impact of Sars, which unveiled a surprisingly bullish outlook for Hong Kong. Financial experts surveyed had indicated confidence in and appreciation for our medical profession in its control of Sars, and that the epidemic had not tarnished their favorable impression of Hong Kong as a place to live and do business. The exercise ended on a positive note by appealing to the community for unity and giving many thoughtful proposals to help revitalizing the economy.

International involvement

In a similar vein, our accountants from Canada under the auspicious of CGA also appealed for thoughts to be directed to re-engineer our economy and to rebuild our community spirit. They consider that the fight against Sars is not only a health or hygiene issue, it is also a social and economic issue. They made use of their international network to communicate accurate and positive information to update their members overseas and to offer them assistance required to deal with the disruptions caused. They have partnered with the Hong Kong Productivity Council to help Hong Kong¡¦s SMEs to understand the importance of timely financial statements as a crisis management tool.

Accountants from the IT sector under the IT Accountants Association launched another ¡¥Re-born From Sars¡¦ programme to assist SMEs to overcome the Sars ordeal. They were joined by the CGA-Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Chamber of SME and many IT and CPA firms in offering free business consultancy services to SMEs that had become economic victim to the blow dealt by Sars. They have aptly coined the programme the Phoenix campaign, symbolising the spirit and the undaunted hope to be able to rise again from a very low point.

Stay strong

I am sure that these are only some of the gallant efforts of accountants in trying to help out during the worst of times in Hong Kong. But these are the projects that have been brought to my attention and of course it is no less important for the others that I am ignorant of. I salute these community minded accountants for a job well done and wish to commend each and every one of them who has taken part. I am indeed pleased that accountants can be so positive in maintaining strong spirits, so skilled in communication and so resourceful in deploying our international network to serve Hong Kong. I hope that you are also like them, bearing no grudge to ill-fortune, but staying proud, confident and ready to re-launch, rebuild and revitalize a ¡¥post-Sars¡¦ Hong Kong.

Dr Eric Li is the LegCo Accountancy Functional Constituency Representative. For more information, refer to his website at http://www.ericli.org 



ªğ¦^ Back