Sweeteners to fight economic typhoon

Top News | Charlotte Luo 19 Aug 2019

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po says the relief measures are not designed to counter protesters' political demands.

Describing the relief measures announced last week as preparations for an "economic typhoon," Chan also urged people to work together to come up with solutions to combat difficulties.

Speaking on a television program, he said the measures he proposed target the current economic environment. But major economic difficulties can be expected, he added.

Chan said the measures are "not meant to respond to people's political demands because they are not enough to respond to people's political demands."

The waiving of license fees, he noted, is only "a drop in the bucket" if shops are closed during protests.

"Therefore, we hope tranquility can be restored to society and people can temporarily put aside their differences to work together on solving the economic difficulties we are facing," Chan said.

He announced the so-called sweeteners and waivers worth HK$19.1 billion on Thursday.

They included waiving taxes for some 1.33 million people this financial year and waiving 27 types of government fees and charges for 12 months.

They benefit the maritime, logistics, retail, catering, tourism, construction, agriculture and fisheries sectors.

Hong Kong's economic growth forecast this year has been revised down to 0-1 percent from 2-3 percent.

The sweeteners, together with one-off relief measures in the 2019-2020 budget, are expected to boost the economy by 2 percent, Chan said.

And he wrote on his blog yesterday that the economic typhoon would be felt by all types of businesses big and small.

He also recounted exchanges with people in Wan Chai on Saturday.

Some workers at restaurants said underemployment had affected their incomes.

And residents told him the relief measures would ease pressures, but the current social atmosphere had caused rifts between friends and family members.

"There are always differences among people, but violent attacks seriously threaten personal safety and affect people's living and vendors' businesses," he said.

"They all want the violence to stop and the crisis to be solved through negotiations and discussions."

Another top official speaking out yesterday was Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, who said her department did not "kowtow" to anyone in decisions connected to the unrest.

The department is not under any pressure on prosecution decisions, she said before departing for Shanghai.

Asked why no one has been prosecuted for attacks in Yuen Long on July 21, Cheng said every case has its complexities.

And, she added, decisions could only be made after all the evidence is in.

charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com

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