HK govt. rolls out HK$4 billion relief measures to counter economic recession
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said on Wednesday that the new round of economic relief measures will be rolled out soon.
The new round including nine measures is worth a total of 4 billion Hong Kong dollars (about 511 million U.S. dollars), which aims to help businesses and residents weather economic hardships.
The measures will bring a reduction of 75 percent in water and sewage charges for commercial users for up to four months, exemption for taxpayers from paying surcharge if they apply for installments, and improvements in employee retraining programs.
"Relative institutions will make full efforts to follow the procedures and make sure the measures will be implemented as soon as possible to benefit the Hong Kong residents," said Chan.
Chan lamented how the recent unrest had impacted Hong Kong's economy and next year's economic outlook was plagued with uncertainties.
"We need concerted efforts from all sectors of the community to stop violence and let our economy recover as soon as possible," Chan stressed.
The roll out comes after the HKSAR government posted Hong Kong's worst slump on record. In October, Hong Kong's retail sales contracted 24.3 percent to 30.1 billion Hong Kong dollars from a year earlier, a ninth consecutive month of decline and a fourth month of double-digit decline, the government data showed.
In volume terms, retail sales in October fell 26.2 percent compared with a revised 20.3 percent drop in September.
HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the city's economy has entered a very difficult situation, adding that the government had about 1.1 trillion Hong Kong dollars in fiscal reserves to weather pressures from bruising China-U.S. trade disputes and prolonged protests. The HKSAR government is set to record its first budget deficit in 15 years, the chief executive said, adding that the last time was back in 2004.
In November, the Asian financial center confirmed its economy had plunged into its first recession in a decade in the third quarter. Shrank by a seasonally adjusted 3.2 percent and 2.9 percent year-on-year, the economy was weighed down by increasingly violent protests and external uncertainties.
Past relief measures
Since August, the HKSAR government has already unveiled three rounds of economic relief measures amounting to 20 billion Hong Kong dollars before this round.
The first stimulus measure was introduced mid-August which offers a 19-billion Hong Kong dollar package, which includes increased income tax exemption, a 50-percent reduction in rent to most of the short-term tenancy, partial rental restaurants and retail stores for community and commercial uses in public rental units, extra allowance to social security recipients, and loan assistance for small businesses.
The second measure was to help businesses deal with the economic downturn that accompanies the protests. Introduced in early September, smaller firms in Hong Kong caught in the unrest of the city's protests would have immediate access to funding worth up to 35 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Chan described the second round measure as an "instant help," which aimed to help small and medium-sized firms to "ride out the storm."
The third round came out in October, aiming at supporting the industries severely stricken by the ongoing upheaval in Hong Kong, including retail, catering, logistics and tourism.
Since fuel is the main operating cost of the transportation industry, the package covers fuel subsidy for commercial vehicles, including taxis, some minibuses and others, worth 1.37 billion Hong Kong dollars.
It also covers inspection costs of the transportation industry with 16.5 million HK dollars in subsidizing about 6,300 commercial vehicles.
Rent reductions and fee waivers are also included, as well as a four-month-subsidies program for travel agencies.