Hong Kong to spend $15.4 billion in fiscal measures to stabilise virus-ravaged economy

Finance Minister Paul Chan predicted that compared to the economic contraction of 6.1% last year, the economy is set to grow 3.5% to 5.5% this year

The Associated Press February 24, 2021 16:01:10 IST
Hong Kong to spend $15.4 billion in fiscal measures to stabilise virus-ravaged economy

Hong Kong Finance Minister Paul Chan, center, attends a press conference on budget for 2021-22 in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Feb, 24, 2021. AP

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will introduce 120 billion Hong Kong dollars ($15.4 billion) in fiscal measures to help businesses and residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, as it looks towards economic growth later this year following a recession in 2020.

The measures — which include tax relief, loans for the unemployed and consumption vouchers — are aimed at stabilizing the economy, Hong Kong Finance Minister Paul Chan said in a budget speech Wednesday. He forecast the economy is set to grow 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year, compared to the economic contraction of 6.1 percent in 2020.

The budget for 2021 “aims to alleviate the hardship and pressure caused by the economic downturn and the epidemic,” Chan said.

Unemployed residents can get loans capped at 80,000 Hong Kong dollars ($10,300) in a program that postpones payments for the first year and charges one percent interest. The measures come after Hong Kong last week reported a 7 percent jobless rate between November and January, the highest since April 2004.

Vouchers worth 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($645) will also be issued in instalments to residents to boost consumption. Businesses and individuals will also receive tax relief.

Chan said that Hong Kong’s fiscal deficit is at a record high after the government last year spent 300 billion Hong Kong dollars ($38.7 billion) on supporting measures, including a cash handout to residents and wage subsidies for businesses.

He also said that mainland China’s economy was “fundamentally sound” despite uncertainties from the epidemic and in US-China relations. Hong Kong, as a semi-autonomous Chinese city, will benefit from this.

“In the medium term, Hong Kong will continue to benefit from the ongoing development of the mainland and the shift in global economic gravity from West to East,” Chan said.

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