HongKong government announced a series of relief measures worth HK$19.1 billion ($2.44 billion) to offer support after the city said it now expects 2019 economic growth to be up to 1 percent from 2 to 3 percent previously.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government announced a series of relief measures worth HK$19.1 billion ($2.44 billion) on Thursday to offer support after the city said it now expects 2019 economic growth to be up to 1 percent from 2 to 3 percent previously.
The move comes at a difficult time as worries of a possible recession and waves of anti-extradition law protests weigh on sentiment, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said at a news conference on Thursday.
The measures are intended to “relieve the burden” on struggling enterprises and help citizens “maintain confidence” in the local economy which will hopefully boost Hong Kong’s economic output by 0.3 percent, Chan said.
The city’s top financial official plans to introduce a one-off household electricity bill subsidy of HK$2,000, a one-off grant of HK$2,500 for kindergarten, primary and secondary school students, a one-month rent waiver for public apartments and one month’s worth of extra payouts for welfare recipients.
Taxes will be decreased for a large segment of the population.
More than 340,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the SAR, which account for over 98 percent of businesses and employ about 45 percent of the private-sector workforce, are bearing the brunt of the recent social unrest and will be lent a helping hand, Chan said.
Government fees and charges across 27 categories will be waived for 12 months. To help SMEs face liquidity problems, guaranteed loans under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme will be provided.
The basket of measures will be carried out “as soon as possible”, the announcement said. While measures like waivers for public housing rents could be implemented as early as October, some “big ticket items” need to get approval from the Legislative Council before being put into practice.
“The relief measures were not meant to solve the political crisis facing the government, but served as a way to take precautions as challenges loom large,” Chan said.
He urged Hong Kong citizens to “take a breath” and focus on restoring the city’s economy, adding that protesting is not a “solution”, but only leads to “additional harm” and “escalates tension among people”.