Transport and retail boosters rolled out

Top News | Charlotte Luo 23 Oct 2019

An additional HK$2 billion worth of relief measures have been rolled out to support the transport and retail sectors bracing for Hong Kong's first recession in a decade.

These include fuel subsidies of HK$1.365 billion for taxis and commercial vehicles, rent cuts of HK$600 million for public tenants and waiving commercial vessel inspection fees of HK$16.5 million.

The measures, announced by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po yesterday, follows a HK$19.1 billion package in August.

Chan said the government will subsidize fuel costs of commercial vehicles for six months. The subsidies are expected to benefit 61,000 drivers for taxis, minibuses, as well as 180 public operators and 13,000 commercial vehicle owners.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said the cabbies would be subsidized HK$1 for each liter of liquefied petroleum gas at petrol stations.

Chan said he hopes lawmakers could understand the difficulties of the industry and approve the funding soon.

The government said in a statement last night it proposed to reimburse one-third of the actual fuel cost for six months for the five franchised bus companies and 22 franchised and licensed ferry services as well as one-third of the actual electricity cost for the Hong Kong Tramways.

"The government plans to consult the Legislative Council panel on transport on the implementation details in 2020," it said.

Rent cuts, which became effective on October 1, will be extended to tenants at various government properties, including restaurants, snack shops at parks, supermarkets and public parking lots. These are expected to cost HK$600 million.

Inspection fees for commercial ships this year will also be waived and 6,300 vessels are expected to benefit from the measure, which will cost the government HK$16.5 million.

"The relief measures will increase the chance of the government slipping into a deficit, but we will make good use of our resources at hand to help industries ride out the economic downturn," Chan said.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau is still discussing relief measures with the tourism industry, Chan said, adding these will be announced in due course.

Chan also called on property owners and landlords to support tenants in retail, food and catering, and tourism and logistics industries.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Luk Chung-hung said he welcomed the fuel subsidy, but he is dissatisfied there are no detailed relief measures for the tourism industry, which has been worst hit by the protests. He suggested the government offer emergency unemployment assistance to the jobless.

Executive Council member Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said the government should announce relief plans for the tourism sector as 97 percent of 1,700 tour agencies are small businesses which are "all in dire straits."

The Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker hoped there would be some measures to increase the number of tourists, worried that more than 20 percent of retail and catering businesses "would close down by the end of the year."

Tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the measures would include supporting tour agencies but it was unlikely the government would offer HK$120 air ticket subsidy to Hongkongers. He suggested the government reduce the airport tax instead.

charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com

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