HK$4.5b targeted relief, but no more cash payoutsLocal | 15 Sep 2020 6:32 pm
The government appeared to rule out any further cash handouts – as demanded by some political parties including the biggest pro-Beijing part DAB – as it announced another round of targeted relief measures aimed at industries hardest hit by the economic downturn, RTHK reports.
At a briefing announcing the easing of some social distancing measures, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said HK$4.5 billion will be used to support 23 specific industries deemed to have been hardest hit by the pandemic, including tourism and the food and beverage sectors.
Asked about calls for more handouts, Chan said limited resources need to be used wisely.
"We understand the financial hardships that many people are going through because of the economic situation," he said.
"However, as you know public resources, financial resources is rather limited. We believe ... a combination adopting a more targeted approach is more appropriate in the current circumstances.''
Billions more will be spent on extending many existing support schemes – including special payments for the unemployed, which will now run for six more months until the end of May.
The government is also setting aside HK$10 billion to buy coronavirus vaccines as they become available.
Local businesses will be allowed to borrow more money – up to HK$5 million. The loans are guaranteed by the government. Rates and government rents for commercial properties will be reduced further; and a host of government charges will be exempted for a longer period.
Chan said this unprecedented spending will see Hong Kong's budget deficit soar to around HK$300 billion this financial year, and whittle Hong Kong's fiscal reserves down to around HK$800 billion.
In the run up to the Policy Address, political allies of the government like DAB and FTU had urged the Chief Executive Carrie Lam to announce another round of cash handouts.
Earlier this year, the administration paid HK$10,000 to all permanent residents.